Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Fresh Start

So, after quitting that first game, I joined Craig's 3.5e D&D game, which ran on Saturday afternoons. Before I joined, the group consisted of mostly characters who were from, or connected to, the village of Lorrik's Haven.

Pate - A male half-orc cleric/barbarian who has, being an orphan, dedicated himself to the protection of children. He is very popular among the village's younger residents and will be sorely missed during his journeys. Of course, the children of the village expect him to return with wonderful, if simple, stories of his travels. Played by Jason

Calatin - A male, human druid who lives near the village and has spent a great deal of time with Broadleaf, a very old treant druid who calls a glen just west of town his home. Calatin's best friend is a wolf named Hornet, who still sports scars on his muzzle from "that time he stuck his head in a nest of the stinging insects." Played by Mike E.

Timond - A male, human wizard who grew up the youngest son of a local farming family. At an early age, he expressed an interest in the strange talents possessed by the local weird hermit, Bartle, and has been studying under him for some time. Bartle just recently kicked him out (in a friendly-mentor sort of way) to find his own path. Played by Roy

Ehrdren - A male, human fighter/scout with a penchant for the great outdoors and a skill-set reflecting that. He is the only son of the owner of the local inn, the Inn of the Sundered Sword, and leaves town with the blessing of his father and little sister. Played by Mike B.

Kai - A female human bard who grew up in a fey city in the western forest. She left the forest, with the help of a pixie named Widdershins, to whom she is married. She me the rest of the group as they adventured in the outskirts of the forest, and accompanied them afterward. Played by Toni

The first session I played was very strange. The group had gone through a bunch of adventures already. They rounded up some escaped animals and monsters for a traveling circus, and fought a bunch of halflings in a wooden giant suit. They saved a villager from undead "Hollow Ones", and fought a "demon" of sorts, that had been sent by someone named Aleksar, to kill Pate. They entered the western wood to find where the Hollow Ones come from, only to encounter a pixie named Widdershins, who answered some of their questions, and told them how the forest was expanding to the east (towards Lorrik's Haven), and about the forest king, who lives at the center. They found that the forest was gray and dead and ashen, as if it had been burned. They discovered an old keep and fought fey spirits known as Slaugh, finding their cache of valuables, including a parchment that contained The Song of the Dusky Fey, which held clues to what was happening. They also rescued an adventurer named Eduard, who had more information, including how the forest shifted around, and that the leader of his group (now missing) had a map that would track the shifting forest. On their way our, they met Kai, who saw them all as different kinds of fey creatures... Timond was a Slaugh, Pate a Redcap, Calatin a Hammadryad (a male dryad), and Ehrdren a Thorn... Eduard she just saw as a human. She accompanied them out of the forest, back to Lorrik's Haven. There, they questioned Ehrdren's father about events of the past, and then decided to head east, to perhaps learn more about the Dusky Wood.

This is when I entered the game. It was a very interesting start... quite strange, in fact. My character, Zorenthiel Moonshadow, an elven cleric/sorcerer, was in the next town east of Lorrik's Haven, known as Barston. Several women in the town were having difficulties, as their pregnancies had carried on almost twice as long as they should have. Zorenthiel had been investigating this for them, mainly with research, when the rest of the group arrived. Joining in my investigation, we they helped discover that the well water was poisoned... not deadly, for for some purpose... and that there were two kinds of magic emanating from the women, and enchantment and an evocation, both concealed by an illusion. We had everyone stop drinking the well water, and Calatin created water for the town from this point on.

Then, with the blessing of the mothers, we began to experiment with dispelling the magics on them. The first attempt, we successfully dispelled the evocation, but not the enchantment. The woman's baby suddenly stopped moving, and the mother became very ill. I had Zorenthiel detect poison, and found that poison was beginning to course through the woman, originating from the baby. Zor worked with Calatin to help forestall the poison, and the woman suddenly went into labor and gave birth to a sickly gray baby that immediately tried to bite everyone. We spared the mother seeing that, and needed a few more days of trying to dispel the enchantment, hopeful that this would return the baby to normal, but dispelling it had no effect on the child. Left with no choice, Zor used his clerical powers to destroy the undead baby, turning it to dust.

Then the other three pregnant women suddenly went into labor at the same time. We determined that it was about the same time that we had taken them off the well water (we had isolated the first woman before the others), and we worked quickly. We dispelled the enchantment first on the next try, and had a stillborn baby, and the same thing happened to the next woman and child. We quickly fed some of the well water to the last woman, stopping her labor (and confirming the exact purpose of the poison). Preparing more spells, we dispelled all the magic on this last woman, and she gave birth to an undead baby, like the first had.

It was quite sad, really, but it didn't seem like there was any way to save the children (other than to, perhaps, just leave the situation be), so I took heart in that, at least, but I still would have liked to have had at least one of the babies born without dispelling any of the magic, just to see what would happen.

Well, after all that, the town leaders asked us to leave. I couldn't blame them for that, but the women were at least relieved to have their pregnancies end, and hopefully they could try again to have children (if they weren't completely traumatized by the first attempts!).

So, it wasn't the most successful start to my time in the game, but it certainly was interesting, and the other players were good people who had a lot of fun with the game. I had a feeling I was going to like this group.

A Return to the Table: Success from Failure

"Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up." Bruce Wayne's father, Batman Begins.

Before moving to Atlanta, the last tabletop roleplaying game session I played, if I'm remembering correctly, was back in 2001. It was a rather unpleasant experience, since it was a first attempt to have my wife, Caroline, get into D&D. She'd wanted to play for years, and my friends were starting a new campaign, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It didn't go very well, overall. She left the session feeling like the other players didn't want her there. I assured her that wasn't the case, and that they were just a little overbearing at times, but the damage had been done. I think that we played one or two more sessions, but it didn't last long. After that, up until 2006, I played online exclusively, through email, msn groups, online chat, and play-by-post forums.

That was fine. It worked for a time, and it offered a different medium to work with. I found that that I liked the extra time afforded to me by the play-by-post method, and it gave me the opportunity to do some good writing. The downside is that games took a LONG time to play.

When I got to Atlanta, I joined a D&D group, and went to a few dinners with the group. I also joined my first tabletop game in a long time. It promised to be an interesting group, with Monsters as the Player Characters. I was thinking "Cool! We get to play Monsters that decide to take up Adventuring, since it seems so lucrative for the human-types! :D". I still think that it's a good idea, and it would be kind of neat to run a side-campaign in 4eD&D based on it, but that's for a different post on a different blog.

Anyway, I created an Incarnate Clay Golem... which is an idea I'd been sitting on for a little while. If you're not familiar, this isn't Gollum, as in the ex-hobbit that craved after his "Precious". A Golem is a magical construct. For example, Dr. Frankenstein created a Golem. A Flesh Golem. Also, the episode of X-Files where Mulder and Scully are posing as the suburban couple, and that monster made of trash keeps killing people at the direction of the head of the HOA... that is a Golem. A Trash Golem.

In D&D, for a Clay Golem, a wizard or priest forms a humanoid shape out of clay, and performs a number of rituals over it, and it is imbued with a semblance of life. The golem's creator controls it, giving it orders, such as "Follow me and protect me" or "Stand here. If anyone tries to pass you without first saying the word 'Kalamazoo', hit them, and keep hitting them until they stop moving.". The idea behind an Incarnate Golem is that, by some means, the construct has been turned into a living being. I developed the idea from the rules given in the "Savage Species" book, and he basically started out with a lot of strength and hit points, but he was only a 1st level fighter. The idea of playing a "blank slate", and developing him from there was promising, but the game ended up being a disappointment.


The first problem was that the DM took my character concept and twisted it into something that HE liked better. Now, I admit that I didn't speak up and say "No, I don't want that" as he changed things and gave me more and more "stuff" for the character. "Clay" (heh) ended up being an Awakened Golem, instead of an Incarnate Golem. Now, what that means is that instead of being transformed into a living being, he had a living soul invested into him. So, he was still composed of clay, and still had all the traits that came with it, resistances and such, and he was a higher level fighter to start. I wasn't entirely pleased, but I put my trust in the DM, that he had a plan or something.

Now, I should say, at this point, that the experience wasn't entirely the fault of the group or the DM, though. I can't blame them entirely. I missed a few sessions, most notably the first one I was supposed to play, because I COMPLETELY forgot about it, only a week after I'd made the character (welcome to a glimpse of what the ADHD-PI mind is like. *sigh*). Apparently the DM was pretty upset about that, since he thought I'd quit without even trying, and took it as a personal slight. I smoothed things over with that, but I still had to miss a session a few weeks later that turned out to be a key one.

In addition, I'd created a character that was pretty much all melee-based, but he never got into a fight. Not once. The only time I rolled a d20 was for a perception check... oh, and a Knowledge: Arcana check, even though I didn't have "Knowledge: Arcana" as a trained skill, but I managed to roll a natural 20 on the die, so I actually ended up knowing something... somehow. I was told that the second session I'd missed contained a bit more action, but at the same time, I was told that even though there was action, it was still not a great session, and it ended with a massive Deus Ex Machina.

The entire experience was just a bit pedantic and there wasn't any tension, except what we created ourselves. The guy playing the giant insect (Thri-Kreen) felt that he needed to debate the merits of allowing any new people into "the Hive", and seemed to relish drawing the negotiations out as long as possible. Otherwise, we just wandered around this abandoned fortress we had claimed as our own, discovering new parts of it without any real challenges, and having more and more NPC monsters showing up and joining our group... each needing to justify, in detail, what they would bring to "the Hive" before they were allowed in.

During my last session, we had decided to use a portal in the fortress, which is apparently how one or two of the other PCs got here. It linked to a wizard's tower, and it promised to mean some action for us, so I got excited. Alright! Finally some action! However, just as those lines were ultimately a disappointment for Ed Gruberman, they were a disappointment for me. The moment we arrived and were about to begin exploring the tower, elements of one of the other character's past showed up suddenly, and whisked us all away to a far distant land. For the rest of the session, we all just sat around doing nothing while he was put on trial for something we didn't understand, and that wasn't really explained to us. Afterwards, I'd found out that the lack of action was because that particular player complained to the DM that there was too much action in the previous session (which I'd missed).

So, by this point, I'd had enough. When I got home, I emailed the DM and said that I was dropping out of the game. I wasn't mean about it, I just said that I was expecting something else, and the game just wasn't for me. I thanked him for letting me play, and told him that I hoped the game continued on successfully without me. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be the case, because he emailed everyone saying "Anyone else?" and my friend Craig dropped out too, and that caused the game to collapse. Oh well. Sorry. I didn't know that I was a load-bearing player.

Even though that game ended, I was fortunate to have met two of the players. Craig and Dave, both of whom I have been playing with since, and both of whom have become good friends of mine.