Jul 28 2011

Pumyra’s RP Prompts – “Beholder”

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Originally posted to my LotRO blog.

Warning: Bad fic ahead. 🙂

Describe your character from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know them.

Toby and I were on the road from Ost Guruth to Bree; it was a risky trip, we knew, but we had a wagon full of pristine hides and we knew the Bree auction house would get us the best price. We were almost to the Forsaken Inn, when the howling of wargs chilled our blood. Over the hill a pack came swarming, some being ridden by goblins, and we ran for our lives, abandoning the cart in our panic.

We scrambled our way up a rocky cleft, goblin spears striking the cliff walls to either side of us; Toby’s short hobbit legs made it a lot harder for him, so I practically lifted him into the air and shoved him over the precipice. “Wait!” he shouted. “There’s–” but I couldn’t stop to listen, there was a warg right on top of me! I just barely had time to heave myself over the top and into the canyon beyond, kicking the hairy beast in the face to give myself the last push over.

I turned back and glanced over the edge: the wargs were not following, even though they could easily make the leap. Instead, they were circling below. I said as much to Toby, but he didn’t seem impressed.

“Uh … I don’t think our situation has improved,” he said, pointing into the ruddy brown, dusty valley. In the shadows, gleaming green eyes — in nauseating sets of eight — glistened at us. Chittering and making what almost sounded like vicious chuckling sounds, a half-dozen obscenely huge spiders were slowly but visibly closing in on us. We couldn’t go back, we couldn’t go forward.

“You and your pristine hides!” I said.

I wanted to sell them in Ost Guruth!” Toby shot back.

The nearest spider was dangerously close, now; I could smell its disgusting venom and hear the click-clicking of its feet on the rock. I pulled out my dagger, a futile gesture of defiance, determined to slay at least one of the monstrous things before they overwhelmed us — when suddenly and as if out of nowhere, the horrid thing burst into flames before my eyes, squealing and thrashing in agony!

“Hey, you two need a hand?” called a feminine voice. Off to our right, seeming to shine with her own internal light, an elf-maid stood with her hands on her hips and her head cocked to the side, as if amused by the whole thing. She wasn’t like any elf I’d seen before … instead of regal and elegant, she was rough-edged and almost arrogant, with a bright motley of clothes and a shining winged circlet on her head. But for the leaf shape of her ears, I would have assumed her to be of the race of men.

The spiders, enraged by the interference, turned from us and converged on the elf, whose expression turned into a predatory grin as she crouched for battle. Reciting something in elvish that I couldn’t catch, she held a stone between herself and the closest spider — a flash of lightning arced from the stone into the beast’s body, causing it to jerk and smoke. Then she turned to another, pulling a small vial of something out of the satchel at her side and hurling it at the beast, which like the one at the beginning burst into flames.


Within moments, it was over, and the elf-maiden was stepping over the charred spider corpses to come over to us. “You two okay?” she said. “I’ve got some medicine here if you need it.”

“That was amazing!” cheered Toby. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“Eh, it’s no big deal,” said the elf-maid, with a shrug. “I’m from Mirkwood … if there’s one thing we know, it’s how to kill spiders.”

“We owe you our lives,” I said.

“Oh, heh, don’t worry about it,” said the elf. “I’m sure you’d have done the same for me. But we oughta get out of here before more show up. We’re not far from the Forsaken Inn, I’ll go with you that far.”

“But what about our wagon?” said Toby. “This whole trip will be for nothing.”

“Was that your wagon in the road?” said the elf. “I guess it’s a good thing I blasted those wargs and goblins, too, then! C’mon, we’ll go pick it up. It’s a bit of a mess, though, sorry!”

Toby looked like he was about to pass out. “You saved our wagon, too? Please! Tell me your name, so I can write a song about your great deeds!”

“You write songs?” I said to Toby.

The elf-maid laughed. “Wow, a song about me? That’d be great! My name’s Lachwen. C’mon, let’s go!”

-The Gneech

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Jul 26 2011

Vaguely-Poetic Spam of the Indefinite Time Period

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“No towel racks one day (or week) is over, the importance of the towel can be understood. In order to grasp the thin air only after washing your hands, please try to imagine every single time reaching for the towel. Initially embarrassed and you rack eventually towel and apparently (as a result) I understand that lack. Life without a rack next to the vanity top is truly frustrating experience. rn rnAccessibility features of modern society. Click the mouse button, all accessible to us in a gentle tap on the touch pad or laptop. When we need it desperately, why are ubiquitous towel, that is if we need to dry your hands after washing them, it should not escape us. These racks are to have access to the towel, that is their main feature. Although it initially looks like a very, spend a day without the rack, and you are connected, you may not Narimasure to understand when it comes to discomfort and dissatisfaction. More at … [URL REDACTED]”

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Jul 21 2011

Old-Schoolifying the Pathfinder RPG

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Well, the “sandbox” bug is going around the gaming community and it’s bitten me as well. I’ve decided to see if I can run and enjoy a sandbox game for a while. [1] And, as sandbox games are a very “old-school gaming” idea (like “1978 blue box old-school”), I have implemented some house rules to underscore this aspect of it.

First and most obvious, is to use the “slow progression” XP chart. Leveling back in the old days took forever, and a new level was a big deal when it finally hit.

Second, and related to the first, is to institute Class Training. Once upon a time, you didn’t hoard gold in order to purchase magic items, you had to spend it in order to go up a level. As I recall, none of the games I was ever involved in actually used that rule, because you had to earn the XP and spend the money for training, which seemed like paying for the same ground twice. But from a game-design point of view it does have some interesting wrinkles, not the least of which is that giant gems behind obvious deathtraps suddenly become enticing, instead of something that the players shrug at and move on as not being worth the time expenditure. (“Let’s go find some monsters to crack open for XP, shall we?”)

In order to avoid the “paying for the same ground twice” feeling, my house rule is very simple: between adventures the players can “trade in” treasure, at the rate of 1 GP = 1 XP, on “training.” Whether that training was actual drilling at the martial arts academy, studying tomes in the library, or blowing it all on ale and wenches, doesn’t really matter. The point is that treasure is now actually useful for something besides just buying another +1 for your battleaxe.

Third, and this one is a little more out there, is that a character may not progress past 10th level in any single class. At 11th level, should the game reach that point, they can multiclass, or they can take prestige classes as desired, but 10 is the cap for every class. This means that a lot of upper-end class abilities are just not available, and unless you are in a prestige class that gives the “+1 spellcasting level” there is no way to ever get a 6th-level or higher spell. It also mucks around with spell penetration at higher levels, so if that becomes a problem I’ll probably either nerf critter SR or provide some other way around it, but we’ll get to that later.

The next step, for me, is to create a bunch of hooks and/or adventure sites ranging from levels 1-5. Back when the model was “the DM has a signature dungeon,” you’d pretty much create a single dungeon where the first level had critters with 1-2 hit dice, the second level had critters with 2-4 hit dice, and so on downward, and the players would either fight, sneak, or negotiate their way through going up or down … and the GM would repopulate the place periodically to account for the new vacancies in dungeon population created by rampaging PCs. I have in mind to get around this by having a small handful of thematic “dungeons” where most of the action will take place, and the PCs can bounce around from one to another as they see fit. As they “get to know” these dungeons I’ll add new locations and probably toss in the occasional “big event” adventure for variety.

The key to it all, however, and something I’ll need to make sure to impress on the players, is that they’ll be the ones driving the campaign plot, in as much as there is one. As such, I may institute something similar to the “goal” mechanic from Ghostbusters: each character has a self-defined but explicit and measurable goal, and when they achieve something related to that goal, they get a bonus reward (probably in the form of XP). For example, a wizard might have the goal of “study magic phenomena,” and whenever they encounter something weird (like a magic fountain randomly tucked into a dungeon room for no apparent reason) they get an XP bonus for figuring it out. A fighter might have “defeat notable foes” and get bonus XP for fighting bosses, that kind of thing. Knowing the players’ specific goals can also give me ideas for encounters to throw at them. If the paladin has “slay demons” as their goal, I know I need to put demons into the game; if the rogue has “pick pockets” as their goal, I need to put them into situations where pocket-picking is feasible. That kind of thing.

I’m hoping this will be fun and a bit different. I’m also hoping that this will get me back in my GMing groove again for a while, ’cause I always miss gaming when I don’t get enough.

-The Gneech

[1] As for exactly what that entails, the definition is pretty vague. But my interpretation is mainly that instead of coming up with plotted adventures, I simply create a setting and a handful of “adventure locations” and let the players figure out where they want to go and what they want to do there.)

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Jul 18 2011

Don’t Worry, We Handle This Sort of Thing All the Time!

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The Gneech ain't afraid of no ghost!

-The Gneech

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Jul 08 2011

New Story Begun!

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Tonight I finally started working on another short story to submit to the next ROAR anthology. I got ~880 words in, not a bad night’s work, although there’s definitely quite a bit still to go. I’m not sure yet how long this one will be, although it’ll definitely be shorter than “Blackbird Singing In the Dead of Night,” probably in the 3,500-6,000 word range. This one stars Suburban Jungle‘s Louis T. Tiger, who’s off to college and has to cope with the side-effects of his sister’s fame.

The submission deadline is the end of July, so there are only four weeks to go. I’m confident I can be done in time, but if there are other writers out there who are looking at submitting for ROAR and haven’t gotten started yet, you might want to shake a leg!

-The Gneech

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