Tag Archives: dragons

Tabletop RP: Let us play dragons, you cowards!

This is a personal complaint, but I can’t be the only one who gets frustrated about this mechanic in Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, which if I am understanding correctly, stopped even including after 3.5. That’s the level adjustment to actually let players play dragons. You would think a game called Dungeons and Dragons would encourage encountering and playing with dragons, but really outside of encounters as enemies or people you have to persuade to help you, you don’t actually deal with dragons much unless your DM is kind.

And this drives me nuts.

I want to play a damn dragon! It is not my fault that they’ve overpowered their dragons to the degrees that they have. There has to be a way to create a scaled-back, but still reasonably powered, race of dragons that the player can play in combination with a class, even if it’s as simple as only allowing certain classes (like sorcerer and a few others) that have bloodline variants to dragons anyway.

There are two points that everyone who thinks I might be needlessly whining are going to bring up: Dragonborn/Half Dragons (let’s be honest, there’s not a huge amount of difference outside of lore and a few stats/attributes), and the level adjustments of older versions of the tabletop games. For some people, this may serve as a fix. For me, eh. I have issues with both.

First, the Dragonborn/Half-Dragon idea. It’s not a bad one. As they grow more powerful, depending on classes, they can become more and more draconic in appearance. It’s a peace offering, a way to try and let people play dragons without the power dynamic problems. Except it isn’t an actual dragon. I get stuck on this, because there’s a ton of world building that goes into most of the races and creatures. The Dragonborn/Half-Dragon cultures aren’t the same as the clans of dragons themselves, and each color of metallic has their own culture within themselves, and we don’t get to see it hardly at all as players. I want to tap into that, not just into looking aesthetically like a dragon.

3.5 did allow players to play dragons… to a point. If you were playing in a campaign that started at later levels (or had a pay off system that your DM arranged), you could play as a dragon. But the problem was that a) it wasn’t consistent between the colors of dragon as far as what you could play as age-wise, b) it was a high level adjustment because most campaigns didn’t start you past level 5, and those were pretty rare, and c) they were only for the stupid-young dragons. I mean, stupid-young. I’m talking freshly hatched to before puberty is even a dot on the horizon ages. Under ten in a human, ages.

Speaking as someone who has played that young of a character before in a joke campaign, it is so hard to get into the right mindset. Not to mention having a child-like character in the party can be super frustrating for the rest of the party. And at that age, per the own descriptions in the books, the baby dragons would want to stay close with their siblings, and there are at least two eggs. So what the heck is the party going to do with two of them? And that’s if you can convince one of your friends to play as your sibling, which is…very dependent on personalities.

By bending the rules a little bit (and starting our campaign stupid high in terms of level so the DM could be sure he wasn’t going to kill us), I’ve gotten to play Jadzia, a silver dragon sorceress. She is still, maturity speaking, about the same as a twelve year old human. I can play off her maturity versus her actual age a lot…but you know, my inner sap would really like to have to be dealing with being old enough to arrange her contract to a male, and how all her adventuring is affecting it, like how one of my fellow players is experiencing with their princess-rank character. I can’t expect it to happen like at all though, because of the age mechanics have pushed me down to, and I’ve made peace with it for this campaign…but it sucks that there isn’t even an option or mechanic if we wanted to.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Both of the current “solutions” have their pros and their cons, from a pure, “I want to play a dragon of some sort,” stand point. From my wants and desires, neither meets what I want. One solution is to use homebrew and playtesting with 5e or something to figure out how to make it work for an older dragon, or how running a campaign for all dragon characters would work. (Which is a possible solution, but I’m supposed to DM the first 5e campaign for our group, so still wouldn’t get to do what I wanted since I wouldn’t be the player.)

On the other hand, it would be a hell of a lot easier for the folks behind Dungeons and Dragons to come up with an expansion or something similar to let people like me have our fun with the dragons without it being a battle/counter diplomacy mess.

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News: Self-Publishing and Mystic Riders!

Thought I’d give you all an update this week to start off the new year with my plans! Thus why the delay till the 1st. (And then this time next year I can wonder what happened, right? lol)

So first bit of exciting news: GinnyZero and I have launched a blog for our MMORPG! Mystic Riders MMO is our baby project, a non-combative P vs E RPG that we are approaching from a narrative-first direction. It is a game for girls, with lots of options for customization and story paths (okay, not Detroit: Become Human levels, but paths!) that is for horse lovers and adventurers who may or may not have secretly creative/girly sides…or not, the choice is literally yours. All you have to have is a love of horses and exploring an open world and ranging series of stories that will all make sense in the end. (I hope, I will have a lot of pans in that fire!)

We’ve gotten a large chunk of the story concept and mechanics figured out, so while we are in the middle of writing everything and getting an organized list what’s left that we can’t do on our own, we can be stirring up interest! Right now it’s just the blog, I’m hoping in the next couple of months to get us set up with a bank account so we can do a tip-jar sort of thing so if you all want to throw us five bucks here or there, we can commission concept art. There’s also a twitter, @MysticRidersMMO, that is retweeting all of the various game thoughts in one place (because that is required, jeebus), tweeting whenever the blog updates, and (yes, AND) will be participating in writer games once they get out of the holiday slush because…well, we keep learning new things about our characters while doing it, and isn’t it fun to learn that with us?

Unlike here, where it is basically me babbling at you once a week, there’s a little bit more going on over at Mystic Riders MMO because Ginny and I aren’t just writing for writers and readers, we’re appealing to players and developers and parents. (Apparently I have good instinct for informative carrot talks to parents…? Who knew?) So while my awkward self is providing blog posts on Saturdays, with editing and additions from Ginny, Ginny is posting on random Tuesdays with quotes, pictures of what is inspiring us, and maybe some links to music or videos as needed. We have lists and piles of inspiration stuff, we want you all to see it and get an image of what we want this game to be so hopefully we can convince others to help us make it a reality.

Another plan is for Sun’s Guard: Ten. I am out of people to query, and honestly, I’m rather annoyed at the whole agency view anyway. So I am withdrawing my last one (because lack of communication is my biggest pet peeve ever) tomorrow morning, because I’m taking the holiday at least halfway off. As for self-publishing, I have a coworker who has very generously volunteered to do my book covers, and he is honestly very good, I’m ecstatic to have him helping. If I can get his work back on my personal time track, what I will probably do is release Sun’s Guard: Ten on Amazon on either the rough-date I have the book taking place at, or on Caley’s birthday, whichever lines up best with his own schedule.

I really just need a week before the release to run it through spell check and reread for typo purposes again, as well as edit one section for questionable copyright purposes, and it is ready to go without someone giving me a concrete critique of the current draft. (And I have tried.) Once we’ve got the book cover done and I figure out how I want the summary to go, we should be in good standings. I am planning doing a digital release AND a printed release through Amazon…I’ll probably buy it and Ginny’s books to sit on my self at the same time, not gonna lie. Though lordy do the shelves need organized at some point this year… My twitter will be a few weeks of promoting the book, and then the blog will have a few writing posts that are as non-spoilery as possible (definitely for later books….questionable for the first book) about my process with Ten that I haven’t already talked about. Then it’ll return to normal until the next book, lol.

Speaking of next books, Ginny has given me a side project by accident via me getting a writer’s block on Caley’s next book, probably caused due to the stress of querying, so until I’m unstuck later and not drowning in getting other stuff for Mystic Riders set up so going back to my list of things to do for it, I am poking at a stand-alone book. My monsters-of-the-world book idea fell apart on me, showing that not all fanfic can make the leap to original pretty obviously, but this one is a lot more self contained. It might actually be pretty short, even for me, so more of a novella, but I am hoping to get it out to you all at some point too, because I’m pretty excited about it.

(Ginny says she can see one of my DnD characters and her current love interest in it, I am arguing back that there is only so much fluff the DM can give me before it gets awkward for both of us, this is how I get my fluff! And then there was digging for play-bys to use as my models, which was harder than I expected for my knight…)

So besides an MMORPG, Sun’s Guard: Ten, and possible future novella shenanigans, the blog is going to continue the same. I have a stack of new books to read, though I don’t think I’ll be reviewing all of them, I FOUND THE GINNY BOX by unpacking the closet so I have plenty of fodder that way though, and I have thoughts and feelings on several RPG characters to continue to talk about. It’s going to be a great year, if a busy one!


Writing: Teenage Characters and Aesthetics

Sponsored by last night’s DnD session and poor Jadzia, who gained two items. Now, for beginning reference, Jadzia is a juvenile silver dragon whose favorite form when she’s shape changed is a late-adolescent human with silver dragon bloodline traits. An elegant goth late-adolescent human. She actually hoards gem stones of a very specific series of colors (no yellows, oranges, bright or true greens although super dark or milky and pale greens are fine, or reds, unless they are the deepest, darkest shades of red like her lipstick), and rejects anything with gold metal work. Her primary hoard items feature star sapphires (her favorite) and are a belt of magical gem stones that fit these rules. She dresses in a flowy pretty dress with vest and corset work to add structure all in black and charcoal grey.

Her first newly gained item last night I tweeted about, a lesser ironward diamond. It basically is a different type of magical gem stone, and being a smokey grey diamond, it fits just fine. The problem is that second item, which as a player, I wanted. I wanted badly. It was a rod of Piercing Cold. This lets me ignore or at least help combat with benefits Jadzia herself has so if we’re ever in a fight against her brothers or other family who we haven’t met yet, I’m not screwed with her being specialized in cold/ice themed spells to a high extent.

The staff part was fine–it was ice blue. The topper, though… The topper was deliberately made to rub her the wrong way. It’s an angry snowman with a knife.

Jadzia was balking so bad, ya’ll. I wanted it, but she was going, “SNOWMAN! NO!” and ugh. It was a long few minutes and we had to poke at dragon greed to get her to take it. Thankfully, her trying to change it to match her aesthetic is actually planned into the DM’s goal for the thing, so no hurt feelings. But there was some confusion when I mentioned the twelve year old was THAT attached to her aesthetic. Some of it was fellow players forgetting, which considering how she normally looks and her usual maturity, it’s hard to remember that she’s only 48 and that’s barely entering puberty by dragon standards. But I think a little bit of it is that for male writers, even the best ones, they don’t quite understand it.

I’m not saying aesthetic isn’t important to pre-teens and teenagers in general. I know for some boys, it’s just as important as breathing. But then I also know that there are people like my brother, who can and will wear warm colors with cool in such a way that if he was doing it with super nice clothes, I’d cringe. Even I can get pretty lax when I’m in casual mode. But for some people, it is life, and the truth is, many of those people are preteen and teenage girls.

Some of that is cultural. We have most of our societal pressure about our appearance pushed onto us as girls between the ages of 11 and 19…which is cruel and unusual, because that is when your hormones and body are doing weird things and you have very little control over anything, yet have to start planning for the rest of your life. Fretting over how you dress and what colors you can’t stand anymore is an easy way to re-establish that control. Some of it is personality. I am naturally an extremely fussy person about color because I can tell dye lots apart even with the smallest of differences, and that’s about the age that people really start taking an interest in fashion, and apply themselves to a very specific look.

As a juvenile dragon, Jadzia is not only in that mindset, she is stuck in it for the next several decades…if not centuries, I’ve not looked at the higher dragon age categories. So for me, I really have to keep it in mind that she is very concerned with appearances and how she is perceived. Particularly with her high level of responsibility, since she’s the most powerful of her clutch and the only female on top of it. She has decided for whatever reason that the gothic look is how she wants to be seen–possibly because she wants to be seen as serious and grown-up, overcompensating for her real place in development. To her, this is just as important as any moral or ethical question she could be put in, because at her age, it is just as important.

In case people still don’t get it, let me explain it in terms of an appropriate holiday metaphor. Intellectually, I can acknowledge that a green, gold, and red Christmas tree is pretty and festive. I will compliment it and may even investigate for reference for a character who might like it. I still want it no where in my home. My Christmas colors are silver and blue and I decorate more with snowflakes and plain deer than Santa Claus or snowmen. (An occasional penguin might sneak by, but shhhh.) Am I so set in my ways that I won’t accept a pretty gift? No. But will that gift actually get hung up in the house? I’ll wait and see if I change my mind, but it’s a no promises situation. I’m also double the maturity level of a teenager.

A lot of male writers do a good job of understanding that this is a thing for young girls, including the guys that I play DnD with. Even some girls don’t experience it and can be confused, depending on how they grew up and their personalities, and then have to try and write it correctly. But sometimes I don’t think writers completely understand it, and that’s what I hoped to try and explain better.

Happy holidays, everyone, and I’ll see you on the cusps of the New Year.


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.


Dragon’s Keep Review

This isn’t the first time I’ve read Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey, and I can’t say for certain if it will be the last. I don’t know what it is about this book that keeps drawing me back in, but I keep going back to it when I crave a high fantasy adventure…and coming away disappointed. So this time, I really looked at what had me going, “Eh…” about it, and what I actually liked about it.

The characters are a mixed batch of royalty, knights, and then commoners. I’ve managed to keep the royalty straight in each read, but every time the knights and the commoners bite me in the butt and I can’t keep people straight outside of their scene. I always have to have a moment of going, “Okay, who is this?” which isn’t what any writer wants. What’s worse is that there are several characters we don’t even meet, and I’m able to remember who they are and how they are important, but not the characters Rose actually deals with. They are cookie-cutters that never got filled out, but are acting in fairly important parts like actual cookies.

With the main characters, it’s a pretty evenly split. Sir Magnus and the king and queen, I knew and I liked. They were fleshed out, they had fairly clear motivations, everything was pretty hunky dory. But I am still confused about our witch character, as far as any of her motivations beyond being an evil witch, boo hiss. Our protagonist and her savior knight? Flat. Flat, flat, flat, flat. There is literally nothing about them I can dig my teeth into as far as real character traits are concerned. I think Snow White, Cinderella, and Princess Aurora have more personality, and those are my least favorite Disney princesses for the very reason that they are nothing beyond the pretty princess! And seriously, we get one little snippet of the hero, but otherwise, he just shows up at the end of this and they are in love, and just… Put down the Twilight and get into the real world, please.

Speaking of worlds, the world of Wilde Island…I like it. It has a King Arthur link with the story of the Pendragon queen of Wilde Island and Merlin’s prophecy about them. There’s a layer of serious authenticity to it, and I would know due to my work with the Arthurian Order of Avalon these last couple of years. I love how the dragons are, and yes, I’m okay that they talk. It’s her dragons, I’m not going to judge. (Wait till you meet my “dragons” in Eresith, you’ll understand.) There are a couple of loose ends, though. Tess’s connection with the witch seems sort of  tossed in. I’m told there’s another book, but I shouldn’t need a second book to understand what’s going on in this book. And Opal, God, OPAL. I swear, there was a subplot that was supposed to explain why she’s different from the others, but it never made it in. Or I hope so, or else I will be ready to throw things.

Plot wise, it was…okay. I mean, about the time we hear of the second prophecy that Merlin made to the dragons, we’ve vaguely figured out where it is going to end. The witch trial took me a little by surprise, but it worked with what we knew of the world, and on a second read it made more sense to me. I think the biggest thing I had with her plot was the amount of TIME she took to tell it. The book is a fast read, but it’s hard to realize that it takes years for all of this to play out. I think if it had been considerably condensed, it would have been much stronger for it. And I’ve already said how there was very little character, but if there had been more of Rose’s motivation, I would have known her as a character better. If condensed, the relationship with her future king would also have made sense.

The subplot with Kat was just an unnecessary mess. I really wish it had been cut, and more depth added to the main plot, especially with Rose and her would-be rescuer. Or modified to fit into the main story better. As it is now, it’s this awkward…thing that sort of sits heavy in the middle of the plot. It also seemed like there was a serious lack of conflict going on with Rose/Briar and her time with the dragons. I understood they were supposed to have this love/hate relationship, but it really didn’t come across well, mostly because we were told a lot more than we were shown about her interactions with them. Okay, we get, Lord what-his-name is being mean to you. But what about the dragonlings? We just aren’t shown enough of them.

Upon more reflection of this book, I’ve kinda realized what it’s a knock-off of. Here me out. At least with the dragons, I’m being REALLY strongly reminded of the first book in the Dragon Chronicles by Susan Fletcher, Dragon’s Milk. If you think about it, they have fairly similar plots if you compare the first half of Dragon’s Milk and the last half of Dragon’s Keep. They are enough alike that I have to wonder if maybe Carey read Fletcher’s and just tried to add her own twist to it, or if it’s just a coincidence. I don’t know. But I guess I keep coming back to Carey’s book because I love the Dragon Chronicles so much, and I keep wanting it to be just as good as them. Which isn’t really fair to anybody, including Carey and myself. So maybe I need to put Dragon’s Keep faraway until I forget I own it.