Category Archives: Tabletop RP

Character Study: Bevan

Ahhh, the first Dungeons and Dragons character. Always fills you with nostalgia. Especially with how broken she ended up being, it was really funny, since I didn’t build her that way, it sorted of just happened.

Like most beginning players, I was an idiot and gave the DM too much to play with. I have a stated preferences of elven characters, and Bevan was no different as a half-elf…whose human side ended up being nobility as we found out later. Further, we crack shipped her with the Lawful Good character in the party, who had issues with non-human races, and she was Chaotic Good, so you can imagine how they got along. In addition, he thought she was a he, because Bevan started as very androgynous in appearance (we eventually time skipped and she grew up a little more so that ended). So I got bored and made a giant genetics chart like you learn in biology class, and yeah… See, I’ve learned!

Bevan was a lot of fun though partly because of how much info I gave my DM to hang me with. She had lots of family problems, serving as an indirect bridge between a hidden village of elves and the nearest human local. While some of her village didn’t view her any differently, some saw her as nothing but a half-human. Similarly, her human family just saw her as an elf getting in their way. Add in the fact her mother was killed on purpose when she was a child, rather than it being an accident, and you’ve got a whole mess of a character arc to deal with. And as awkward as it was to RP a relationship later on with her and my friend’s character, we had some fun too. (Okay, I remain firm that it was hysterical that when he had to “kill” her, he took forever, and in a similar situation, she was like, “NOPE, not my real husband, BYE!”)

A lot of the fun with this character was how broken she ended up being. Some of that came from us modifying a prestige class from version 2.0 into 3.5, because deep wood sniper was the class that made the most sense for how Bevan was set up, but oh lord did it do broken things to this character. Add to that a couple of items we found–a sentient ring designed to protect those of elven descent and turned her invisible at will and a quiver of everful so she never ran out of ammo–and the stockpile of poisons we ended up with and she was the sniper from Hell that no one wanted to be up against. Due to feats and class skills, she had insane range, could fire a lot of arrows per round, and you wouldn’t even see her while she was doing it. I had all the giggles.

If all of that wasn’t enough, we had a wild mage in the party. Wild mages do…interesting things…to the characters who are around them. I’ve had to come to terms with it, despite my hatred of people screwing with my characters. (My control issues are legendary.) Bevan had one of these funny examples. At one point, she got hit with a surge (pre timeskip, I remember that much). And she got a random racial template assigned to her. The problem is, the half-elf race is set up assuming that you are half-human. That part didn’t change. When the dice landed on half-Raptorian on the table, DM ruling was that I got the wings and would be able to be targeted by Raptorian-centric stuff. I wouldn’t lose my human or elf statistics either. The only way that’s possible in DnD is if you are half of each race. So Bevan became, effectively, half human, half elf, half Raptorian.

…All I can say is, “A wizard did it.”

So now the sniper can fly, doesn’t that just fill your hearts with glee? Not really, I know, but it was a lot of fun to play her. And you know, Bevan’s story was so complete, I actually don’t have any drive to write it as something else. We really covered a lot of ground with her, and she had an ending she deserved. Okay, plus I’m not sure if I’m capable of writing her story as a book. So many of the wild craziness was dependent on other people for humor and was so off the cuff, I couldn’t remember it all if I tried. Add in the fact that she was, for the first few sessions, a quiet member of the party, and she isn’t set up to be a major protagonists.

Bevan was my first character, and honestly if she hadn’t been as much fun as she was, I probably wouldn’t have kept playing. But she was, and she will always be special to me as a result. Probably why I’m so fond of the name still!

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Character Study: Birdie

God, I love this character. I built her as a Fast Hero, which for those who aren’t aware of d20 Future’s interesting class choices, means that she was primarily Dex(terity) based in terms of skills, saves, etc. She was supposed to be fast and speedy. Except I decided to have fun with it, and made her best skill Int(elligence) instead (Dex was a very close second so I didn’t exactly suffer for this decision). Picking my allegiances, aaaand…

What I ended up with was a child prodigy in mech design and computer programming who had good reflexes and an instinct for piloting…who was also a pacifist. Due to circumstances, she had to hide who she was for quite some time, that being the child of two other highly intelligent people who are now both deceased. Except I left some deliberate holes with her family, and the DM had a whole lot of fun with them. I got to be the hero in a Gundam story, and it was a blast.

I think what was fun was how she was this snarky pacifist in a war situation, and how the upper ranks just tolerated it? I mean, she ends up being this ridiculously powerful psychic who could do all sorts of stupid things, and after two or three times of being right…they pretty much believed her no matter what she said. And despite the fact that she was no hero in her own mind, everyone was looking to her, relying on her. The pressure was so heavy on her. And then it was fun to have her rely on other characters…and then the DM kills them because war is like that and it’s heartbreaking.

Birdie’s biggest characteristic, aside from being the strongest psychic of her generation, was her do-no-harm mindset. If she could avoid conflict, she’d do it. If she could resolve an issue with words, she’d do it. And if things had to go to the physical, she would do everything she could to make sure all parties made it out alive. Every death was personal to her, not only because she felt them die if she was close enough for her psychic ness to pick it up, but because she hates violence and war that much. This is  what really drew others to her, making her a bit of a rallying figure for the resistance she got dragged to. Of course, this is also what made her enemies really hate her, whether its the ones who enjoy the fighting or the ones who suffered when she had no choice but to kill someone for her own survival.

Okay, her other big character trait ended up being her hair, because the doll I made for her gave her knee-length pink hair… And I basically got to play with it. She started as my pink psychic princess, and she ended as my pink psychic princess. But in between it turned navy blue and super short, except the crew is struggling to remember this as I play the second half of the campaign as a different character. I’m just endlessly amused by this.

But shortly after we started, I had a thought and realized it would have been sooo awesome if I had thought to make her a clone of her “mother.” Imagining her reaction to finding out her father is actually her uncle, and the confusion that results from it. Questioning how she’d be treated, if she would even be acknowledged as a person or if as a clone she wouldn’t. And then we meet this space royal family, and the fact my character has NO idea who her grandparents are also started twigging in my brain. So through a large portion of the campaign, I’ve been musing about a storyline where those two lines are true. It’d be radically different than the RP, but at the same time, it promises so much amusement.

You all know me. Scifi is not my jam. But I love Gundam Seed (not so much the sequels, but I like the original), and really Birdie was my attempt to honor it. I’d love to keep playing with her character concept, and making it work for a book. I have a loose idea for it, but I’m not sure how much of the war I’d want to take from the RP and how much I’d want to change for the sake of making it original and my own versus my DM’s. There’s the added issue that I am ignorant as heck about space since it has been years since my one college course in the subject, and I am the first to admit I know nothing about machinery.

I might write this in snipets and just kinda see what comes out of it. We’ll see.


Character Study: Yun/Psyche/Mageris

…This character went by a lot of names, okay? This was the warmage character…that eventually got turned into a favored soul/warmage gestalt and had a lot going on, both in front of and behind the scenes.

Short story on why her classes changed: we had one campaign going with her as the warmage, and the DM realized the story was going in a direction he felt was in his comfort zone and he wanted to stretch himself. We all agreed to a restart, most of the players changed their characters entirely…but I am the sort of person who wants some conclusion for characters, so I just modified her (only I didn’t, we’ll get there). The campaign, through no one in the current group’s fault, ended up dragging and then getting wrapped up quickly, but the conclusion was definitely there and so I am quite content with this character.

First off, I got to play with the amnesia trope, which is one of my favorites. This character was raised as Graceella (childhood name, elves are weird) and took on Mageris as her adult name. She was a lower born noble, but was lifebonded with the heir to the empire. But considering how being lifebonded can make life complicated, the adults in the situation decided to separate them in hopes of weakening it a little. Unfortunately, one adult (who Mageris thought was her mother, actually her aunt and this was a lot of fun later) took it too far and wiped all of her memories. All that there was for this poor girl to figure out who she was was her scrawl of her signature at an inn, which she thought said “Yun.”

Now, while I was pretty careful about fleshing out the mother’s side of the family…I hadn’t paid attention to the father’s side. So the DM got to have some leeway with them, and boy did he take it. It also led to us having to keep two different histories straight. Yep, we had parallel world hopping going on, and while most of the party was from the same world, I was from the original RP’s world, which was two different situations. At several points, we ended up killing that world’s version of Psyche, as several different possible outcomes to her situation played out. This is also how I ended up with the sword I used, which was pretty epic and I loved. The DM really worked hard to make sure everyone in the party stayed balanced, which is great when you contrast people who understand how the classes are in strength compared to others…and then people like me, who just create a character and find the appropriate class and run with it, regardless of how strong of a class it is.

And what’s really fun is the change that happened to this character without her memories. She had been raised the gentle, retiring lady who happened to have warmage capabilities, someone who was frequently overwhelmed by the lifebond who was used to getting his way as they got older. But without those memories, away from friends and family, she had to learn to stand on her and found her own voice and authority. When her memories returned, she had to try and mesh those two different personalities together. Thus, when she started going by Psyche. This was also when she started having real trust issues with the adults in her life, because she was very upset over how they had treated her, and God can elves hold grudges. And it was fun when she met her paternal uncles, and she was full of stubborn authority instead of being demure. (One really didn’t like it, it was funny.)

The favored soul aspect was fun too, because Psyche was Neutral Good, the Good is Not Nice trope at times, definitely not the gentle maiden anymore. But she was chosen by a draconic deity who was true Neutral, and his focus was on maintaining balance and stability…even if that stability couldn’t be considered “good” by an objective eye. There were a couple of instances where Psyche had to convince her deity to do something that was going to destabilize the world they were in at that time, where the “good” argument wasn’t going to work. Usually she managed to pull it off by arguing that they were about to throw the balance off anyway…it didn’t always work.

Something fun I did with her (just because I could) was do an elemental thing with her spell choices. While warmage’s known spells are set, with lots of fire and lightning, I got to pick her favored soul list. I ended up going with ice and holy light offensive spells aside from the request healer spells, creating what I consider this interesting contrast in the two sides to her nature, and what ended up being the two conflicting personalities in her head: headstrong and authoritative Yun and the more retiring and quiet Mageris. Funnily enough, it was the favored soul stuff (which matches Mageris better) that flared up with the loss of memory.

As for the lifebond, there was a lot of shenanigans, but things ended up working out there well…sorta. We didn’t get to RP much with him, or rather the real him (which is probably for the better for everyone’s comfort level), but I imagine the epilogue was pretty entertaining. Both end up being chosen favored souls of draconic deities, but he doesn’t get as much of a chance to interact with her after she has her memories back and both of them are aware of it until it has ended and they are now being the clean-up crew. I have mental stories and musings about how he would handle the change in personality in his lifebond, and the different path their lives have taken. Though really, he is probably happy about the difference–he has magic now, when previously he didn’t, so yay equalizer.

I honestly think I might return to Psyche at some point, though not as a DnD character. Rather, I’d like to play with her as an original fiction character. I think it could be a lot of fun, and let me explore some things with her that I couldn’t in a DnD setting, since there’s either no mechanic for it, no point to it without possibly taking up time that isn’t fair to the other players, or just be something I’m more comfortable writing rather than RPing in a tabletop setting.


RP: When to Recognize a Bad Partner

Part of the fun of RPing is not being able to predict what the other characters are going to do. For some, there is no plan and it’s completely winging. For others (such as myself) there is usually a loose framework in place, but it can be rewritten if the characters react differently than expected. The key is to remain in communication and remember where the boundaries are.

Problems come into place when those boundaries are crossed, or when communication breaks down. These are my personal signs that something has gone south, and you should consider breaking up the partnership (which is a post for another time, I will get to it).

1) They stop answering your messages. We all get busy, not every message gets answered within the hour or even the same day. People also go on vacation or have emergencies happen. I usually wait a week or two before I send a follow-up message, and then see what happens. But even if you are completely free-forming your plot, keeping a conversation of reactions going helps insure that both of you are having fun and are still engaged. If that breaks down, it’s a sign of dark days ahead.

It could also mean that, for whatever reason, they are away from the computer unexpectedly for a while. If you are on a site that requires monthly posting, this is a big problem, and while you shouldn’t completely give up on them, start making back-ups and tracking down a potential replacement.

Of course, it could also mean that they are about to take a left into Crazy Town. I have horror stories, mostly involving the same person, where suddenly the plot went side-ways from what we had previously decided, and the person refused to respond to messages when I expressed my concern and my lack of enthusiasm for this new direction. Either way, silence is not a good sign, but can be okay in the long run.

2) They start messaging too much. On the opposite end of a spectrum, there is such a thing as bugging someone to death. If you messaged them an hour ago, and they have logged on since then, they probably saw it or were only on long enough to read things, but weren’t at a place to reply. Maybe they have to think about the answer.

Being constantly barraged by messages outside of RP is exhausting. It is also the first signal of entitlement to a response. At this point, just talking could fix the issue, re-establishing boundaries. You definitely don’t have to take it, though, and if it doesn’t stop, consider finding a new partner before you hit the next problem.

3) They feel entitled to anything you write. This could be applicable to just your RPs. They feel like they are your partner, and if you join a new RP they need to join too and their character has to be paired with yours. It’s one thing to be friends and like to RP with each other because you trust them not to bork you over. It’s another for someone to constantly do it without your consent.

Sometimes it can even extend beyond the RP, and they feel entitled to any sort of writing you’ve shared with them. Original, fanfic, alternate ways scenes could have happened in the RP, anything you’ve written, they feel like belongs to them even more than it does you. This is when things are going to be ugly when you break. Make sure you’ve either posted everything, or whatever they have is easily proven as yours not theirs, just in case.

Because the fall-out is going to be ugly.

They will start to poison your relationships with the other RPers on the website you are using, even if it is an RP they aren’t involved in. They will try to drag others into the break-up, telling them half the story in order to make themselves look like the victim. Passive-aggressive messages will pop into your inbox, and basically they are going to make a nuisance of themselves.

Sometimes the moderators will get involved if you ask. Sometimes they won’t. Handling it is a nightmare all around. But if you notice the earlier markers, you might be able to get out of the relationship before it gets that far. Because it is a relationship. Just like dating (and finding an agent), finding good RP partners is hard, and you have to wade through the crazies. They also take constant work to keep communication and barriers you are both comfortable with.


Tabletop RP: Gender and DnD

So. I play DnD. With a bunch of guys. No other girls in the group, and all attempts to add girls to the group have not been met well (one for other reasons, but yeah, hasn’t worked out). Now, I know other girls who play, and have groups that are much more mixed gendered. I just didn’t fall into those groups, and my schedule doesn’t mesh with them. Leaving me stuck with the guys.

And let me tell you, this gets uncomfortable for very quickly.

Now, it doesn’t get uncomfortable for these guys. Because I don’t talk about girly things with them and I work very hard to keep topics away from subjects that while I might enjoy them, I know will bore or make them uncomfortable. Because that’s what our society encourages in female behavior.

Now, if only I could get the same respect.

Frequently, things take a turn for the disgusting, the over-sexed, or sometimes a weird mix of both that really makes me uncomfortable. Especially when they start making references to certain animes and video games, which are notorious for being for the male gaze. And speaking up doesn’t get me any favors, not really, since nothing will actually change. Now, I could be overly sensitive, but I think my experiences and the conversations I have with other female players reveal some serious differences in how the genders play DnD.

For one thing, I’ve noticed that guys tend to go out of their way to make crazy characters. And by crazy, I mean mixing, matching, and combining races, classes, and feats in order to get the most over-powered character possible. Now, if I make something overpowered, it’s by pure accident (the wu jinja gestalt class comes to mind, though I haven’t had enough chances to play it to be sure). I tend to pick a class that fits with the kind of character I’m playing, sticking to classes I know I’ll enjoy playing rather than ones I know will irk me (…like the wu jin, not a good pick in hindsight). The more complicated it is, the more I have to keep up with which distracts me from the game.

So with these crazy characters, you would think the guys were just as invested in the games we play as I am, right? Well, sorta. Some of the group is just wanting to push to see how much they can get away with by terms of the rules. They don’t really do back stories or character investments, and are pretty blase about their characters dying. Even the others who do care about story are always ready to move on to the next thing. Which is pretty contra to Ginny’s understanding of other groups, which treat the characters as investments (which is how i would prefer to play). I create complex back stories for my characters for a reason, and to see it go to waste just frustrates me, so one DM has even lost the privilage for me to do that anymore.

More than anything, I’m noticing, at least in my group, that it comes down to differences in what they play for. Now, these are huge generalizations, but it seems to me that boys play for the laughs and the oh my gods. They want to see how outrageous they can get and the more crazy, the better. But for us girls, it’s about the story, it’s about the characters and the actual RPing.

I’m not saying that boys don’t enjoy the characters and story. They can, and do. But get a group of them together, and they are going to be forgotten in favor of seeing how much damage a fireball spell can do. I’m not saying girls don’t enjoy battles. I love blowing things up and getting critical hits too, but if you put me with a group of other girls, we’re probably going to focus almost entirely on the story and the rest of the system will be an afterthought. Groups need either balance or focus, depending on the set up. So in my case, I have one DM who understands my need for story, the others needs to blow things up. The other…can’t seem to figure this out.

And as a DM myself, I need to learn to read what a group needs. Obviously, I’m going to want to lean towards the story angle myself, but that isn’t going to work with this group of guys. I need to figure out how to feed their need for chaos and my own for story at the same time.


Tabletop RP: Warmages can be fun too!

I swear, I’ll have a review next week. The first random book from Ginny’s box turned out to need a movie first to understand it (I’m not thrilled about this stupidity of the writer), so instead, here, have some DnD rambles. This one is going to be pretty technical, but hopefully I’ll be able to explain it all.

The current (or one of the current) campaigns I’m in, I’m playing a gestalt (meaning two classes at the same time with no penalties) warmage/favored soul. The character is actually a reboot of a straight warmage I was playing. We managed to get her really good armor early on in the campaign, and I decided to drop the mounted aspect to her when the story went a different direction than last time, so I got on the Internet to see some options for better equipment for warmages.

Only to discover that most people don’t play straight warmages. Everyone will dabble in them to get their mages the ability to wear armor, but otherwise, everyone seems to pass them off as a useless class, or at least not one of the better ones.

Now that just ain’t fair.

Maybe I don’t play the game right, but I like my characters to not have some gaping hole in their abilities/skill set. Now some things, like stealthy things and swimming and climbing, yes, armor is going to get in the way of that, so if I can keep that a solid +0 with characters in heavier armor, I’m happy. But I don’t want to be constantly missing Spot and Listen checks if they have fairly easy checks to meet. I hate having a poor save that is easily manipulated by the DM. (Will, why is it always WILL?) So those people who min-max, who are capable of great, amazing things but are worse than useless for anything else…confuse the dickens out of me.

Now, I understand at least a little where they are coming from. Warmages don’t have much in the way of skills, they don’t have very many skill points per level, and their spell list is very concentrated. They get some things each level that make their spells more damaging, but overall, at least on the surface, there just isn’t much special about them.

LIES, I say, LIES. (In the most joking tone imaginable.)

You are looking at a specialized tool with a warmage. It is meant to be magical artillery. In my case, I was going to be mounted magical artillery with a warhorse who was effectively a health battery to take some of the damage and protect my hit points. But even without that extra health defense, I have not really had issues on that front (unless I’ve been completely screwed, Confusion is an AWFUL spell, I swear, and I was against an enemy above my paygrade ALONE). The warmage is meant to stay just out of reach of the enemy except from other spells and just bring down hellfire like rain. Trust me, I have been doing this. It has been amazing and painful to watch all at the same time. The class gives you a little wiggle room, letting you add new spells to the set list to help round the mage out of if they are the only spellcaster the party has and there is a specific spell you keep needing, but really, depending on party build, you can just add more variety to your spells. When it comes to taking a hit, they are fairly squishy because all spellcasters kinda are, but the addition of armor up to medium type really helps.

So why do I think my character has been doing well despite being this much-looked-down-upon class? Well, she’s decently balanced. As long as I don’t completely bungle a roll, she could survive on her own (and had to do so, at one point). Her spells vary enough that she can take on multiple attackers at the same time, as she has had to do before, and usually wipes out the idiots that walk straight into swords and lets her help out her allies or pick off others at a distance. I’ve got most of her scores reasonably around 15, give or take a couple points, except her Charisma score (her force of personality) which is at 18, good since it is the main source of her magic power. Her armor score is decent, and now I’m at the point where I can add miss chances for hitting her and such rather than bolstering her armor score.

Now that I’ve defended warmage as a straight class, what are some recs I can make? Well, my armor has Greater Healing properties, which I would definitely recommend. It’s also mithral banded mail, giving me nice bonuses while not making me take a feat for heavier armor. I’ve also got a lesser Iron Ward Diamond, which absorbs some of the damage of each hit. You could splurge and get the more expensive, I just took what I had the money for. A Healing Belt would be a quicker fix until you get your hands on the better armor, though, and a light shield can still be used even if you are casting spells (you just can’t have a weapon in hand too). Eventually, I want to get a shield with +3 Fortification, meaning there will be a 75% chance of critical hits and sneak attacks failing, so I’d only take normal damage from the hit.

I also suggest getting your dexterity as high as you can, fitting to wherever the armor you are planning on getting limits your bonus. For this, I actually bought Gloves of Dexterity, which gave me the extra points without making me waste the bonuses I get every four levels. Don’t worry about wisdom too much, the class actually helps you out with Will saves and you don’t need it for what the class is meant for. But Constitution will be your third big focus on top of Dexterity and Charisma. When it comes to Intelligence, well, the higher it is, the more extra damage your class features give you, but you could just take the feat Extra Edge, which will do about the same level of good if not more so in my opinion. Do any of my readers have any recs for making a warmage better? Or do you have a class that is often looked down on that you think is awesome? Feel free to share in the comments!


Tabletop RP: Alignment Woes

Okay, I give up on my local libraries and am trying to find a friend who owns a copy of Cold Days that I can borrow. Cross your fingers! (It’s trickier than you think, most of my friends prefer audio books…) And since nothing comes to mind for forum RP, I thought I would discuss an element of tabletop that is a lot murkier and troublesome than people give it credit for: alignment.

For those who haven’t dabbled in the DnD waters, Paizo is the wonderful company who gave us the two axis alignment system. What that means is that a character can be Good, Evil, or in between at Neutral, but they are also Lawful, Chaotic, or again, possibly Neutral between the two. This gives nine different alignments to play with, and some have multiple interpretations to go off of. Here are my very brief descriptions, but for more in depth ones, I suggest wiki walking through TV Tropes.Org. I am barely touching on them here. So, by the law-chaos line…

Lawful types are rigid and rule bound. Despite the name, the actual laws of the kingdom may not be the rules a lawful character follows. It could be vows made to a religious order, or a strict personal code. Good characters usually incorporate the more common laws into their personal code if they go that route, while Evil types tend to enjoy exploiting their own loopholes.

Chaotic types re the polar opposites of Lawful, and yet, they can be close cousins. For these characters, either the Id of their psyches or their pride makes them scorn rules (and sometimes morals). To some, the law is the enemy while to others, they just want the freedom of choice. Good characters are more willing to accept or take frowned-upon actions, such as sniping and thievery, while Evil types usually take every opportunity they can to flout the rules. Unlike Lawful, who can’t break their code, Chaos types can obey rules…if it suits their own purposes at the time.

The Neutrals are where everything gets fuzzy. At what point do you cross the line and become straight evil or good? How often do you follow the rules before you are considered lawful? What are your motivations for not being one extreme or the other?

Because things get so fuzzy, Paizo introduced a numeric scale within their two axis system in Pathfinder. 1-3 is Good and Lawful, respectively, with 1 being supremely good/lawful. Neutrals are 4-6, and Evil and Chaos are 7-9, with 0 being supremely evil/chaotic.. It is meant to help DMs judge where their players are at in alignments. For example, if a character is Chaotic Good, but only has a 3 in Good and a 9 in Chaos, they know that the character isn’t always going to take the good action if the chaotic one makes more sense.

Now that I’m done rambling about the basics, here’s the part that I think causes problems. Some DMs consider general tone of actions. For example, when I was playing my Half-Elven Deep Wood Sniper, Bevan,who was Chaotic Good, I was allowed to snipe and shoot an unarmed, asleep man. Why? Because most of the time I wasn’t that chaotic in my choices and I tended to side with the Lawful Good knight. The occasional act of mayhem helped me keep my alignment because it fit the overall tone. I feel the same way when I DM, not worried about each individual action, but about the overall playing style.

But recently, my group had a huge blow up. Part of it was because of a very frustrating dungeon that was accidentally set at Death Trap levels and our DM didn’t check to see if we could survive it (answer: we couldn’t with our party set up), trusting the generator. He ended up nerfing multiple monsters and all the traps, since we were level 1 and it was impossible for us to make them or defeat the monsters. And then afterward the dungeon when dealing with the one who created it, it became a discussion of what did and did not constitute good when he tried to push an alignment shift on another character because of one, singular action. Two didn’t care, but three other players, including myself and the player who was being forced to take the shift, were rather incensed.

Now, neither side was in the right here. The DM should have cut the discussion off and talked to us privately about it rather than let it continue to escalate. I think not getting us set up to have mounting feelings of frustration by throwing us in that dungeon at level 1 goes without saying. But this is where the players should have shut up–it was the DM’s decision. Once he makes his ruling, we should have respected it and talked privately about it later. His style is very much by the book, you break the alignment once, you take a hit, and now that we know that, we as players are really going to have to adjust how we play to reflect that.

So my suggestion? Before you start a campaign, make sure as DM and players that you understand how strict the alignment is going to be and make sure that any hits are intentional hits rather than punishments (as much as the idea of the DM doing any punishing irks the tar out of me).


Tabletop RP: d20 Future

…I have no idea how I skipped a week. Really, I don’t. But I’m sorry! Hopefully I can get things straightened out around here…

This post is talking about another system, created by the same people who brought us Dungeons and Dragons, meant for people who intend to try and RP something in either a modern or future setting. My friends and I just call it d20 Future to reference both. While some of the schematics are the same, there are some differences that make the entire process more enjoyable…and more of a headache.

First, the fun side. I know it might sound crazy, but I really like that it breaks from the traditional alignment system and instead focuses on what a character is loyal to. Sometimes, the three by three system is  rather limiting if you have a particular concept that you are trying to base your character’s motivations around. Using this loyalty based system, it allows you to play with that rather than limiting your actions to just what is considered good or evil or lawful or chaotic. Sometimes your decisions you make for your character are based on something like what their family would think of him/her or if its all about choices (taken from a friend’s idea). It opens up a lot of what you can do with your character.

In the same regard, the classes are really versatile. They focus on a particular strength, such as dexterity/speed or charm, but leave so many of the particulars up to you and what you pick for the profession and feats. It makes the classes super customizable, perfect for a modern or future RP since for a DM, you can run almost anything, and as a player…you can run almost anything. Really, it can cause some seriously awesome campaigns. I have a character who is not what she looks like at all, just because of the different things I picked for her. And she’s in a Gundam inspired campaign. Yeah, this is going to get amusing. I’ve also made a space pirate of all things. There are almost no limits.

…notice I said almost. Some of the things are kinda wonky, and I’m not afraid of calling them on it. To begin with, the way different progress levels work together is often confusing or completely nonsensical, and it makes me wonder if anyone capable of logic looked over the book before they published it. I also think it relies rather heavily on the player being interested in the mechanics about scifi. As my earlier post on hard sci fi versus soft sci fi shows, I am not that big on hard sci fi, and like having wiggle room for interpretation. Having had one DM who thrived on being rule-bound and loves hard sci fi, I wish that there was almost two versions of this. One for the soft sci fi people, one for the rule mongers.

The characters are also very, very squishy at first. And experience is hard to get. It makes the first few levels hard from a DM’s perspective, because you don’t want to just curb-stomp your players. Or at least, most people don’t want to. From a player’s perspective, it’s hard to meet almost any check, and then to further complicate things is battle. Most of the weapons are guaranteed to kill you in one hit, if not two, and there is almost nothing you can do to bolster AC at first level. So you have the problem of how do you get experience points to be less squishy…without getting riddled with bullets in the process. Both times I’ve been involved in any kind of campaign, the DM’s solution has been to give us mechs, which can sometimes actually over power the opposition until everything blows up.

Speaking of stuff, oh my lord. The purchasing system. I seriously think they’ve lost their minds. You basically end up with these point systems to reflect how much something is worth in comparison to each other, and you start out with that point and basically can afford…EVERYTHING that costs that point or less. And then if you want something higher, you roll (oh, but you can take 20) and just… MESS, it’s a  MESS. With more issues from the progress levels changing how many points something is worth or if its available or if a better version is available… I hate doing inventory with this system. Absolutely hate it. And I normally love that part, so that says something.

Overall, I think this is a good first attempt at trying to take their success in the traditional high fantasy settings and RPG, and shift it to modern and future scifi. But they were a little too broad with it over all, and if they had broken it down into very clear, separate systems rather than sort of meshing and merging everything to work together, I think it would have been stronger. Except the inventory system That needs taken out back and shot.


Tabletop RP: The Importance of Player Consent

Obviously, no Dresden yet. BUT I literally have a copy in my purse now. I just can’t read it in one night and then turn around and review it in that same night (sorry, not that fast). So I’m skipping to this and you’ll get several posts of Dresden in a row, how about that?

To begin, let me say that I am in one of THOSE moods involving this topic, so I might get a little touchy throughout this post. Normally I try to curb this, post about stuff LONG after it has happened, but this was planned months ago and now current events are interfering. I’m editing myself, but something might slip through.

As DMs, we are effectively playing God with our worlds. Our word is the last word, the story goes in the direction we say it goes, and if you piss us off, we can end the world and be done with it. That means all the power is in our court, right? Ehhhh, not really. Don’t get me wrong, you have the reins for a lot of stuff, including the lives of the players’ characters. But with that power, as the cliched Spiderman quote goes, comes responsibility to your players. Remember, D&D is all about having fun as a group. Going all Wrath-of-God isn’t fun for any of them, and really if you get to that point, it isn’t fun for you either.

In my opinion, a big way to avoid it all is for there to be open communication between the DM and the players. It both seems really obvious and yet really infringing at the same time, so let me explain further before you hit the back button. I’m not saying to tell your players what their campaign’s plot is going to be, what monsters they are going to be facing, ask what they want to happen, anything like that. I’m saying that you should find out what they as players want out of a campaign. Do they want to really get to use this underused class feature? Is there something in their backstory they would like to see come up? Things like that. You want to know what would really make your players excited and invested in the game, and while you may not do it exactly as they want (in fact, I encourage you not to for the surprise factor), it will help them feel like they are having fun and they will stay invested in the story that you are telling.

On the player side of it, you have to let your DM know if something bugs you. My DMs know I’m arachnophobic, so they keep spider-like monsters to a minimum and don’t show me the pictures. They know I don’t like character mods being forced on me, so they try and make it to where either it’s a plot thing that I willingly agree to in some way (though one is pushing it, so I’m feeding him enough rope to either save or hang himself) or avoid them at all. Otherwise, I’ve learned to keep my hands out of the situation and let them try and tell me the story they created. I like it when my character’s backstory is involved, I like battles where we manage to kick butt. Those are things the DMs try to provide to our group, balancing it with the others’ desire for chaos and destruction.

Reasons why this is important are nights like tonight. The DM taking over our newest campaign (which is going to be Pathfinder, new system, joy) is the same one who ran Lucine’s (see the post about plot rails). This is his first campaign since, and to be honest, I don’t trust him not to screw me over just to prove some arbitrary point. Again. So when I decided to play the Falconer archetype, I thought it was a chance to try to take a better bird that would be harder for him to kill…only I have gotten turned down at every path I’ve tried to take today. I can’t trust him as a DM with a bird that only has 2 HP (yeah, that’s the situation without a better bird), and it’s part of the class. So now I have to rebuild my character. From scratch. And I’ve gone from pissy to frustrated to nearly in tears. This isn’t fun for me anymore, and sadly, all the campaigns are starting to feel this way.

Well, now that I’ve depressed myself thoroughly… Anyone have any stories about a DM either helping make a session great or sinking it to the darkest pits of Hades?


Tabletop RP: Plot Rails, a DM’s Worst Enemy

So, as a DM you have a brilliant story idea or goal for your team to reach. But certain things have to happen in a specific order, and to insure it happens, you just make it impossible for your players to do anything but what you need them to do for your story to happen like you plan.

Congratulations. You just put your party on the rails and, if my experience with this is any indicator, ended your campaign because none of your players are going to stay with you.

Now, my first attempt at DMing got put on hold because my school work went insane, but there were early indicators that I was accidentally straying into this territory myself, so we’re going to reset it period. But one of our group members who was running a military/mech style campaign with d20 Future actually did this on purpose, and between those two events, I think this needs to be something that DMs learn about the warning signs for and why it bothers players so much.

First, from the player’s side of things. The d20 Future campaign had already been on rocky grounds. For one, the distribution of which characters were useful and which weren’t was way out of balance, even among the party. Some of that is the way that weapons work in d20 Future (more on that in a later post), but some of it was the style of missions we were dealing with. An example with my character: I had set Lucine up to be the soldier. She was an all-around soldier rather than a specialist, so she had some ranks in several of her skills and I went the Smart Hero track, letting her be a variable skill monkey. She was also, fighting wise, suppose to be support/sniper/hand-to-hand, ensuring that the party would always have some other defense. There were two other Smart Heroes in the party, who were specialized, a Fast/Smart mesh Hero, and a Charismatic Hero (if I remember right). I wasn’t the only character that got underutilized with the start of the campaign, but we were slowly figuring things out, so I thought that we would be in a good place after the first few kinks were figured out.

We had left off the previous session invading a base. Now, for those who haven’t looked at my bio, when it comes to video games and such, I tend to stick to medieval fantasy games, or ones that aren’t particularly modern or technical. My DM? He glorifies in that style of game. I was really relying on my fellow game players to make sure we took care of the things we needed to. Problem? Almost all my fellow gamers live to do anything they can get away with. So since we didn’t do one thing, the DM felt we needed to face the consequences. What followed was a complete nightmare. My character was tortured (electro-shock style, and the only one to go through standard torture), the others had their own little interrogation sessions, we lost all our gear, even mods that were done to some of our bodies (not mine, I hate those, but the smart/fast character had a few). And then for those of us who were deemed “strong test subjects”…? You guessed it. We had forced mods/templates put on us. Mutations, to be specific, that were completely irreversible. My biggest hatred in ANY RPG where I create the character. I was done.

So why do players hate this? On my side of it, I felt like I was being punished, and the others felt like we’d had no ways of fighting back, meaning we weren’t playing a game anymore, we were just listening to the DM tell us a story, which isn’t the purpose or fun part of the game. There wasn’t even a chance for an escape attempt, which blew my mind. And through the entire session, we’d literally had no control over what we could do, besides what we could say, and even that was lost to some of us with the use of truth serum (that he forgot to mention was truth serum, that was annoying). As for the mutations/templates, I will always hate the ones I have no say in. Mostly because this is my character and while yes, you as the DM get to write the story, but if you are going to be doing any unchangeable and unavoidable modifying to my part in it, I want to know what and when.* Some of my characters, I’m even okay with it to a certain degree. But it takes time on my part to adjust to the change. (The DM later claimed, btw, he did this to my character specifically because he felt I was too attached to my characters and viewed them as versions of me. I’m still pissed off about this.)

*Note: this does not include plot stuff, like the character’s parents dying or something. In fact, I usually HAND the DM plot crap that they are free to use against me.

So how can a DM recognize that they are about to use the rails? I realized that I had done it with my mercenary campaign because of the difficult I was having running the session. Some of this is the fact my fellow DMs have letting-go-of-control issues, but there is a portion of this that is mine for not having stuff planned out in the right way to leave me prepared and them still have their choices. I also had issues with coming up with challenges that would let each player have their moment to shine, whether it be one’s always creative way out of situations or the other using this class that I am DEEPLY not familiar with, and he didn’t brief me on before we started.

(Here’s a tip, by-the-by. If you are using a class from a supplemental book of any sort, be it war mage, favored soul, or anything else other than what is in Player’s Handbook, bring either a copy of the book or find a link to it and send it to the DM so they can look over the class and know exactly what you are and aren’t capable of. Same if you have a race or trait you want to take on. DMs can’t be familiar with every single aspect in the entire Dungeons and Dragons franchise, especially newer DMs. Even our most experience DM hadn’t known about the prophet-variant of Favored Souls until I told him about it.)

I realized I had thrown them into the main plot waaaaay too early, and had made it way too rigid (sort of baby-rails, which are a good warning sign to look for). I have a better idea now on how to structure it so it is still, at it’s core, a mercenary campaign and they have choices to make, but my grand “save the world” plot can happen at the same time, at their pace. I guess the biggest warning sign is to look at what you are planning on happening that session. Are their chances for the players to fight back or escape or bargain their way out? What are you going to be doing to them, and are they (as players) okay with that, or do you have one or two who really hate it and it would be better to plan something else? If you absolutely must do it, is there a save possible? (No saves and sucky consequences are never a good thing to use, btw. Players hate them. It’s one thing to end up Blessed with Suck because of the Random Number God. It’s another to just be screwed over by Word of God.)