Tag Archives: DnD

Character Study: Arianna Silverkin a.k.a. Anna

Anna is probably my favorite of my rogue-types that I’ve played, if only because of how much she’s influenced so many of my other rogues. She really was me pushing myself to play something different than I usually do, and I’ve found that it was a lot of fun! Though calling her a rogue-type is a little…misleading.

Abandoned at a temple dedicated to the goddess of luck, Anna was raised by priests of a different temple that was the goddess of children along with other orphans. But she hated the rules and structure, and quickly fell into a little gang of children thieves. She even got very close to her best friend’s family, making it like the family she’d always wanted. Except there was an accident with the guards, who caught part of the group and killed the rest. Anna did all she could to keep them all alive…revealing that she was a spontaneous divine caster. So rather than sending her to prison, she was handed over to the temples (specifically the same temple she was abandoned as) and forced into getting trained as a cleric, hoping it would turn her towards a better path. (Nope.) She did make a new friend who helped her inch towards respectability, convincing his family to formally adopt her. Though rather than as a child, she insisted on taking the last name Silverkin, to indicate she was just related to the Silvers by law and sentiment than blood.

So for those keeping score at home, she grew up as a rogue, but was trained as a cleric. None of which is what she actually was–a favored soul of the goddess of luck. And, as I managed to pry out of the DM once that campaign fell apart, she is actually the daughter of that goddess.

Part of what made Anna so much fun was her items. I started the campaign later than the other members of the party, and so I had a lot of gold to play with. The results ended up being a bit like a Mary Poppins bag, and was a running joke through the campaign. Between her stash of odds and ends and a case of scrolls that she looted from somewhere, she started to be a little ridiculous. Her spells ended up running the same gambit. Yes, she was a healer, but I occasionally took some spells that had…interesting effects on the plot. (Enthrall has become one of my secret favorite spells ever sense.) She also later ended up with a sword that was tied to her goddess, and eventually grew a little as the story advanced.

(Pause. Okay, I’m getting deja vu, maybe Anna has infected Hekate a lot more than I thought…)

She was also more of a flirt and a downright selfish character than I had ever played in a DnD setting. The poor DM spent a lot of time wrangling Anna, and it was not helped that due to her mercurial nature and identity issues, the other player’s character found her amusing as all get out so he let her get away with a lot or found a way to make it work towards the group…or helped with the wrangling, lol. It was a crazy good time. She also went through a turning point, where she started to treat everything more seriously as she was forced to deal with her guilt and her grief from her past.

At some point, I’d like to play with Anna’s story a little. There was a lot of need for her goddess in the city where Anna grew up, and there’s a part of me that is intrigued by what happens after she finishes her journey (and level path) and becomes fully her mother’s daughter. What happens when she returns to her home, to try and make it better in anyway she could? I even have an image in my head of what demi-goddess Anna looks like, and some of the struggles that she most likely would have.

Anna really gave me my courage to play a bolder character than my prior types, since while Chocho was bubbly (and admittedly annoying) and Bevan was my go-to, silent and efficient. It’s not something I want to do a lot, because uh, that’s uncomfortable. And I do prefer to do it with Skype/Steam campaigns rather than in person. Because I will turn into a tomato. (Or at least do a very good impersonation of one.) I’m pushing myself to try something in Anna’s vein, just a lot more angsty, but you know, we’ll see how that goes. But for now, she’s sitting on a shelf, waiting for me to find the right story for her.

Advertisements

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!


Review: She Slays Monsters

Something a little new here, this play recently showed at the University of Oklahoma’s theater program, and it struck enough chords that I felt the need to review it. Let it be known, reviewing a play is a little trickier than reviewing a movie or a book. Each production, each show, is a little different, all depending on how they worked together. I’m going off of the way the story was shown this particular time, and how it was designed to appear to the audience. Another production might be different. We’ll see.

The story revolves around Agnes as she seeks to cope with the death of her family, including her younger sister, Tilly. She and Tilly had a difficult childhood growing up together, with neither really understanding each other. Agnes is given a second chance when she discovers a notebook Tilly wrote in: a Dungeons and Dragons module that while only half-finished, contains some hints of her sister’s life. With the help of some of her sister’s friends, she starts to piece together what she didn’t know about her sister…and what she didn’t know about herself.

As a person who plays Dungeons and Dragons… I could tell that no one in the cast or at least the production team actually played. No offense meant to them, but they were obviously relying on their consultants with the local game shop to make sure things looked right…as much as possible. While I’m willing to give some slack since DnD has changed a lot over the years, I can’t help but wonder how much of it changed due to the cast not knowing what questions to ask or the game shop to answer. Which of course in turn makes me ask how many notes the playwright put into the script. You can’t always rely on people to do the research for you, and I feel like he should have placed some more hints into what certain creatures and characters looked like.

Which somehow gets my brain to costuming. Tilly looked great, as did Agnes. What irked the shit out of me–and this was written in the script via dialogue, so I place no blame on the costuming team whatsoever and think they did great with what they had–was the way some of the other characters dressed. You get that some of this is meant to be empowering for these party members, and the people who play them, but there’s something that almost every DnD/fantasy MMO player who is also feminine-leaning will tell you: they hate having no other option but to dress their character in bondage outfits or chainmail bikinis. And I mean we hate it. It hit so many offended buttons for me, right off the bat, and sort of colored the rest of the way I saw the play. Normally, you can say that it gives the production team a break as far as finding or making armor (as an excuse). Except that I know for the fact that SCA is an international organization that is usually up for working with people in exchange for publicity, and cosplay has created all sorts of cheats, that it shouldn’t actually be an issue.

At times, a lot of beats were cringe inducing unless you kept the setting and the age of Tilly in mind. You had to remember it was the 90’s, you had to remember she was fifteen when she died, you had to remember that she lived in a small town. It was too much from a story standpoint because we were watching this play out, we didn’t have the ability to rewind or flip back a few pages to remember important facts to keep things in perspective. While some of the monsters were named after people in her life, creating interesting moments for Agnus to interact with, it just sat weird to me because the way they worked into the story didn’t make sense. I think he was relying on Tilly’s age to explain it…except I was a fifteen year old writer, and I wouldn’t have done anything that blatant. It felt like the writer was trying too hard to make the audience see the parallels between Tilly’s real life and the life inside the game.

Because the writer in question is a fight choreographer, I have to pick on that a little too. This is where it’s hard to tell what was a production choice and what was written into the actual play without having a copy of the script in my own hands. But all of the party members used melee weapons–practical for a play, not so much for a party. The only healer was Tilly, and she was limited severely (more than I think even early DnD would limit a level 20 paladin). There was no magic-centric class. And even then, everyone used swords, daggers, or a battle axe (with the occasional shield). There are a lot of interesting options available, even in the early DnD stages, that could have helped spice up the monotony of the fighting and made the party make so much more sense. Of course, better spacing of the fighting and making it less random as hell would have helped too. While that’s part of DnD, this…pushed it severely, especially for a play. (Okay, I could nitpick the actual fighting in this case, but that would be cheating and I’m spoiled with my own experience.)

Some of this was very…trite and tropey and not what I expected of this play. I may have had too high of expectations because this was (I thought) written by someone who was in the know about this aspect of geekery. But I ended up feeling a bit disappointed in the writing, in things that I have issues with as a player myself, and in how this tried to show DnD to the world. In the audience, I heard people talking about the game like it was old and dead, like no one had played Dungeons and Dragons since the 90’s and like the game hadn’t changed. And you know what? They are right in a way. No self-respecting DnD group would function like this, at least not anymore.


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.


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?


Forum RP: Balancing Power

With Tabletop RPGS and video games, you will have noticed that your character levels and grows stronger in the game. New items get unlocked, the plot advances, everything is hunky dory. Part of the joy of forum RP is YOU control the plot alongside your fellow RPers. Your potential for any story is virtually unlimited except for the rules you establish at the beginning. But, to repeat the most often used Marvel quote anywhere, with great power comes great responsibility. Or in this case, can cause severe headaches for your fellow players.

Let me give you an example to talk about this. Let’s say you are doing a high fantasy story, set in some medieval land that you’ve come up with. Some of the characters can use magic, others can use weapons, some can do both or neither. It’s pretty open and lets several different players interact with each other, right? But… What if one of the players ignores the rules about godmodding and makes a character who is an expert swordsman and a great magus? Suddenly, that player is going to curb stomp the entire story and make playing with him/her almost unbearable for everyone else.

The way around that is to make sure you build qualifiers into the different kinds of characters people can play, just like DnD and other games do. So, for example, if you are a great mage and have tons of power and spells at your disposal, you haven’t had time to focus on the physical so you aren’t that great at it. Or you have focused on becoming a great fighter, either because you have no magic potential or your power is so small you can barely start a fire. Or maybe you’re an okay fighter and you’ve got some magic under your belt, but if you try to out-magic the mage, you are going to be turned into a toad, and if you challenge the knight to a duel, you are going to get your butt handed to you. It’s all about finding that right balance.

I’m not saying a character can’t have some serious strengths. But there has to have drawbacks. Let’s use Rogue from X-Men and my RP with that canon as an example. I’ve given her the ability to acquire and then use any mutation that she comes into contact with, not to mention gaining information without worrying about somebody lying to her. What are the drawbacks? Answer: a lot right now. She can’t have physical contact (at least right now, that will get fixed), there are limits on how long she can use a power and how many times she can call on them a day (which will grow to the point it’s silly).

Seems like she’s going to be perfect once I get all her NUMEROUS issues straightened out, right? Wrong. For one, I never plan to RP her to the point that she has that level of control. It will take several years in RP time for her to get it, and it’s taken us over a year to RP a single day. And even if we do get to that point, there are some traits that won’t change. If she is careless, her touch can still be deadly and she has to live with that fear for the rest of her life. And nothing is going to make the voices of people she’s touched who live in her head go away. She’s going to have to live with those too. Those are the drawbacks of her powers. By keeping so many limitations, I make it so that the other players can get in a fight with Rogue and she can potentially lose. It’s what keeps all of us getting along.

Another solution is to provide the characters for an RP. I’m not necessarily for or against this, since it really is conditional on how much control I get over the character after I claim him/her. As long as I keep true to what is initially provided to me, I should be allowed to do what I like. If the creator tries to assert  control over what I do, that’s when I don’t like the situation. Another reason why I wouldn’t like it would be if there’s a set agenda that is working unfairly against me or another player because of the way the characters are set up.

Yet another example of this. In one of my RPs, I play a character with a passive type of magic. Let’s call her kind of magic user (passive or little power/strength) a 2. There is another 2 in the story and two other people who I shall call 1’s because they have no magic at all. There are two other characters in a side plot who have power but not the training to use it, who I call 3’s. And then we have two 5’s: characters with a lot of power and the training and mindset to use it. The creator of the RP is playing a 5, a 3, and a 2, and the rest are scattered among different players, though I know at least one is also played by one of their friends, and I suspect it is the other 5.

In case it is unclear about where the imbalance is, look at what the creator controls again: one of the highest powered characters in the story, one of the powerful but no training, and then a passive/light magic user. As a result, they have the ability in almost any situation to say through their characters, “No, that’s not how I want this story to go, let’s go my way.” And if your character disagrees? Your character is probably going to get killed by one of the 5’s.

In that sort of situation, as the creator, you need to take a step back and realize that this is an RP, meaning a collaboration with other people, not a novel you are writing. The other people need the freedom to play out their character’s stories without you constantly slapping them on the nose because it isn’t going the way you want. Who knows, the new way might even be better. In fact, I near-guarantee it will, because your fellow players are going to be having more fun. And isn’t that what we RP for? To tell stories together and have fun? I know it is hard to let that control go (believe me, I know), but it will improve the experience for you (less stress and frustration over stupid little things) and them.

And if you are the player in the situation? You can try talking to the creator about it (this sometimes works, though be warned if it doesn’t, a harsh consequence for daring to say anything may happen). You can also try creating an AU story with another of your fellow RPers who may feel the same way that lets you explore what happens if you can follow your choices. Maybe even turn it into a short story or a book of your own! You can also just wait it out and see if the creator lets you off the leash as the RP progresses. Some creators are super protective for the first couple of forum-pages, and then loosen up afterwards. It’s a small hope, but it’s there.

Power struggles in forum RPs are a constant. There are no clear rules to help make characters in balance from the beginning, so we as players have to figure out the best way to interact with each other. Sometimes this means giving in a little, sometimes it means giving in a lot. But the important thing to remember is that this is a group effort. Hoarding all the power doesn’t make you the leader, just a jerk.