Aug 22 2013

Eberroneous

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So Laughing Ogre Comics, my local pulp paper distributor of choice, had a small shelf of d20 game stuff that pretty much stopped moving some time around 2007 or so. One of the things on it was an almost-complete set of the 3.x Eberron books, which I’d always been kinda-sorta interested in but never had a compelling reason to get until my recent campaign started.

Having resolved to go in and ask if they’d give me a package deal, I was very surprised when on the very day I attempted to do so, they’d reorganized the store and the gaming shelf was gone. O.o Luckily, the stuff had all been just shipped off to a warehouse, so when I asked the manager if it was too late to buy them en masse, it was just a matter of logistics. He was more than pleased to get them off the books, too. Expecting something like a 10% discount, I ended up getting all of them for $5 each. Aww, yeah! I now have a big ol’ “Box of Eberron,” which should keep me in reading material during the long winter months.

In the meantime, now that SirFox has safely landed in California, and we’re hopefully just a week out from being able to game again, I need to turn my attention to cleaning up some of the mess made of the campaign in the last session.

I knew going into the last session that there was a bit of a plot problem. “Mark of Prophecy” (the intro scenario from the 4e Eberron Campaign Guide) basically consists of “a great opening, a solid middle act, and then a ball dropped.” After figuring out that Aric Blacktree was menacing them by proxy, of course the PCs are going to want to go after him– but the scenario as written didn’t account for that. It just had him come attack them while they were flying on an airship… somewhere. Because airship fights. The scenario as written didn’t even say where they were supposed to be going. (Ahh, 4e. So unrestricted by things like story structure.)

The airship fight encounter, as nifty as it was, also wasn’t enough to sustain a whole game session. So to fix both of these things, I stitched the beginning of the next scenario on and turned the “you can’t find Blacktree, but he can find you” thing into a plot point.

Looked good on paper. Didn’t work so well in practice. :-`

Basically, that removed all of the agency from the players. They were given a very obvious “Here’s the next plot hook, go get it!” at the beginning, but were understandably reluctant to start a new one before the previous one was resolved. And instead of enabling them to cleverly seek out and confront the villain like a bunch of Big Damn Heroes, I instead found myself giving them a series of “No, that didn’t work. No, that didn’t work either…” responses until they gave up and stepped into the airship fight encounter as presented in the scenario.

Not my best moment as a GM, sadly. I really should have foreseen that the players would have wanted to chase Blacktree down and had something ready for that. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, some cool “scouring the underbelly of Sharn” encounters leading to the eventual airship fight could have filled in the gap, felt a lot less forced, and not robbed the PCs of their roles as the ones driving the story.

Oh well, lesson learned, hopefully. Meanwhile, they’re already off and into the next scenario anyhow, but I’m not giving up on the whole “that’s actually a plot point” thing. There are wheels within wheels of competing factions who are all trying to manipulate the Draconic Prophecy to their own ends and the PCs are currently pawns in the middle of all this with only a vague idea of what’s actually happening. That part is working as intended– Eberron’s all about the intrigue. But I have to keep my focus on making sure that the story is about the players, not about the plots going on around them.

Part of that means remembering to throw out the plot-as-outlined when it doesn’t make sense or isn’t any fun. And having the PCs pound the pavement all day, get nothing, and then be ambushed by the badguy they’ve been searching for the whole time? Not so much fun.

-The Gneech

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Aug 20 2013

Fictionlet

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“‘Gone are the days when you could expect your reader to hang around waiting for the story to get good,'” said Greg, reading a blog post on his laptop screen. “‘Today’s busy editors and readers want to get to the good stuff right away.'”

Brigid rolled her eyes. “Let me guess: another post on crafting the perfect opening sentence?”

Greg didn’t answer directly, merely kept reading. “‘It used to be that crafting the perfect opening sentence was the key to getting published. But even that’s not good enough any more– these days, you have to grab the editor with your very first word! How many manuscripts have started with a lackluster The?'”

Brigid narrowed her eyes. “Seriously?”

“‘You should never begin with an article. The readers want to know your hero. They want to see action from the very first syllable! Try to begin with a word that conveys strong emotion, such as bleeding or gunshots.'”

“You’re making this up, aren’t you?” said Brigid.

Greg raised a finger, continuing to read. “‘Above all else, make sure the very first letter of your story is a hard consonant. Never start with a vowel or a weak consonant such as H, S, or W.'”

Brigid shook her head and headed for the kitchen. “The need to fill column space has wreaked more evil upon the world than malice ever did.”

Greg continued reading aloud, apparently enthralled. “‘The letter R is good because it sounds like the growling of a dangerous animal, but your best bet is probably a T, P, or an elusive Q to create a sense of mystery.'”

-The Gneech

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Aug 07 2013

Fictionlet

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“Wait,” said Brigid. “You’re not writing another sequel to Retrograde Maneuvers? It’s your biggest success so far.”

“I know,” said Greg, “and I fully intend to go back to that, but this horror novel idea has really grabbed me, so to speak. Like Mary Shelley did with Frankenstein, I think I could really explore not just what means to be human, but how to–”

“When do they have sex?” said Brigid. “The marketers will need to know.”

“Uh, what?” said Greg.

“The vampire and the werewolf, when do they have sex?”

“You mean, like, with each other?” said Greg.

Brigid shifted her weight, switching into lecture mode. “I don’t know that much about literary fic, I realize, but I can teach you something about publishing horror. Where in the story the vampire and the werewolf have sex determines your genre, and in publishing, genre is everything. If it happens in act three, it’s ‘fantasy/horror.’ If it happens in act two, it’s ‘paranormal romance.'”

“There aren’t actually any vampires or werew–”

“If it’s acts one, two, and three, of course, it’s porn. Which honestly, is your best bet for sales. I can suggest some authors if you want to study their technique.”

“Yes, well,” said Greg. “You’ve certainly taught me something about publishing horror.”

“That’s what friends are for,” said Brigid.

-The Gneech

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Aug 05 2013

In Which the Boom Is Lowered

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I didn’t talk about it much on Friday because I wanted it to sink in a little first; but on Friday I was informed that my job in its current form would cease to exist at the end of September.

So, yeah. Not a surprise, if you’ve been following the saga of my transition to pro writer, but still A Thing. I had hoped to have a nice, easy transition period where we sold the current house and bought a new one on our own schedule, after which time I gave my notice and all was well with the world. And certainly, “the end of September” is about when I was projecting for that to happen, so Congratulations, me! The universe’s plans and my own are more-or-less in synch!

Aheheheheheh. *flail*

So what changes? Fairly little, actually. I will probably talk to some folks in the graphics department about taking some part-time or freelance graphic design work as a fallback, but we were on target to have the house on the market by the end of the month anyway, and certainly if we’re actually moving or moved by the time the job goes Pfft! I’ll be just as well off to say my goodbyes and throw myself into the new life.

Good news is, staying through the end of September entitles me to get my yearly bonus. 😉

But Enough of That Pain! Let’s Talk About Gaming!

Ran the third session of my Eberron Pathfinder game on Saturday. The characters had an epic battle in the skies over Sharn as their new would-be menace, Aric Blacktree, tried to kill them all for reasons still unknown (at least to them). For those who don’t know psionics, a word of advice: a 4th level Wilder can do horrifying amounts of single-target burst damage. Beware. By taking a wild surge, Blacktree’s “energy ray” power did 6d6+6 damage as a touch attack. The downside was that he kept suffering enervation (which left him dazed and ate an additional 4 power points), so could only get that shot off twice, and the first one missed. Still… dayum. The second shot incinerated the NPC skycoach pilot on the spot. Fortunately, when the skycoach crashed into a tower, the PCs managed to abandon ship without getting killed in the process.

The second half of the session was basically segueing into another scenario, this time going into the “goth deco” ruined district of Fallen in search of a mysterious statue for an even more mysterious NPC patron. This brought the party’s lack of a cleric into sharp relief, as an exactly on-level encounter with a pack of barbarian ravers (think the inmates from Escape From New York, that kind of thing) dropped two of the characters and severely injured most of the rest. (1st level barbarian, raging, two-handed greatclub power attack: +6 to hit, d10+9 damage. Ouchie.) A healer in the group would have made all the difference. I suspect there will be an investment in potions/wands soon.

And Then There Was WoW

Last night, after working on the whole “pack up and move” thing for a while, I broke down and bought the full updated version of Mists of Pandaria for World of Warcraft, mainly ‘cos I wanted to make a tanky pandaren and the warrior class was just too darn dull. So now I’ve got an up and running pandaren windwalker monk named Akiji (somewhere in the low teens) and a draenei ice mage named Duskgem (somewhere in the high teens), both on the Moon Guard server, both members of the Fortune guild. Look me up sometime. 🙂

I don’t honestly know how much time I will spend in WoW, given that I will soon be unemployed and might not have money to blow on a monthly rent-to-pwn fee, and given that I’ve always had a begrudingly-enjoy/hate relationship with MMOs, but for the time being it’s serving fairly well for my “Braindead, me go kill monsters until sleeptime…” needs. I’m also a bit uncomfortable about the “racial conflict is in the world’s DNA” nature of the setting, but honestly that’s a common thread in almost all contemporary fantasy– it’s usually just less blatant about it.

-The Gneech

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Aug 01 2013

Big Ol’ Art Post!

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While crunching away on everything else, I have managed to do a few bits of art in-between. And here they are! Because I love you.


Gneech Bizcard 2013 by ~the-gneech on deviantART

Finally, after however many years, I’ve got revised business cards on the way, with new avatar, the current websites, and a new funny bullet. 😉


Biggest Little Furcon 2014 Badge Submission by ~the-gneech on deviantART

Graveyard Greg asked me to do up a Ghostbusters-themed badge for BLFC. The theme is ’80s-tasticness in general, with emphasis on pink and purple, so I went with more of the “Real Ghostbusters” style than the movie guys. And of course, with a GB pic, I couldn’t resist a little self-insert. 😉

I have no idea who the wolf gal is, but she’s blonde and she’s got glam stars on her cheek– that’s ’80s enough for me!


Jenny Everywhere 2013 by ~the-gneech on deviantART

It’s almost time for Jenny Everywhere day, 2013! My submission this year has Jenny catching a ride on a handy airship! I decided to make her human, just to be different, using Nichelle Nichols as my inspiration.

If any woman ever deserved a steampunk fantasy action show of her own, it’s Nichelle Nichols!

If you’ve never heard about Jenny Everywhere, check her out: www.jennyeverywhereday.com.

-The Gneech

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