Tuesday, July 9, 2013
ONE DAY AT A TIME... THE NEW BEGINNING
Greetings, Heroes, Would-be Heroes, and Villains, and wannabe Bad Guys!!!!!!!!
In the Palace of Ice an obscure DM awakens from a spell of Writers Block that lasted from the Fall into the Summer. Why encompasses major life changes, such as promotions, new relationships, and other insignificancies. The Writers Block also coincided with the completion of a Mega-Dungeon by my players. Mega Dungeon was intentional, and yet it wasn't supposed to take a life of its own and eat up so much time - The campaign lasted three years in this incarnation and a year and a half in its previous incarnation, never got to the Part - 2. THAT was a mistake. There was a well-paced adventure, that covered a lot of ground and ended up with players staying in a small town that was raided. Raid was a breath-taking military adventure that spanned the four sessions and brought out the best in players and the party had a real impact on the unfolding events. Then there was an immediate pursuit, a wilderness adventure that covered maybe 8 miles of boggy, twisted and overgrown terrain that the raiders used to hide their movement. What was a three day pursuit across difficult terrain with combat and recovery, assault and counterattack, and incidental rescue, spanned, actually, the four game sessions. Then came the Quagmire. It was AD&D equivalent of Afghanistan, Vietnam and Iraq. It was 16 interlinked dungeons, about 30 rooms each, and it wasn't the product of random dungeon design tables. It was designed with an original purpose in mind, abandoned about 75 years previously, saddled with a realistic dungeon ecology, became a shelter to a number of communities of monstrous creatures, and was taken over as an underground base by the afore-mentioned raiders. Unfortunately they were led by a Goblin King, who was competent warlord and whose defensive tactics were on par with Ho Chi Minh. There was a logistical link with the main body of Goblins, which the players and the men at arms besieging the dungeon could not sever completely. That supply line turned the key areas of the dungeon into a fluid battlefield that changed hands between the players and the Goblin raiders several times. In a previous run of this adventure, the players spent three game sessions trying to retake the same choke point, then they displayed extreme disgruntlement, we are talking three session each lasting a weekend. I didn't give in, they met with the Captain at arms and with the Sergeant at arms of the Baronial encampment that was besieging the tower, but who would not enter as the Baron did not want to lose any of his men to the hazards of infested dungeons (that's why players are there!). It was a role-playing session where they hammered a plan to capture the choke point and to hold it permanently. That was the paradigm shift that worked so well in my campaign, I was able to break away from the loot-based gaming of kill the owner, take the treasure, to a different system, where rewards were more sophisticated, players can requisition equipment from a large body of men supporting them (not to mention the Priests of the Barony keeping the group in healing potions, scrolls and resurrections).
Before I started running this original world of mine, it was a very long time in the making. I started playing with the Moldvay Red Box basic set I bought in 1980 or 1981. I spent 90 minutes rolling my first character, a basic set Magic User rolled from 3dt6 in order. It took me almost a year to figure out how to use percentile dice and how weapon damage works. The playing sessions were few and far in between, players entirely incidental. By H.S., I moved on to Advanced D&D, then to Traveler, the Gamma World, then Boot Hill, then Chill, then Espionage! then Twilight 2000, then Aftermath, Tunnels and Trolls, Rune Quest, Call of Cthulu. It seems that between 1985 and 1990 I read and bought every pencil and paper RPG that came out. It seems that the only role playing games I did not read at the time were Top Secret (I liked Espionage rules), Star Frontiers (had traveler) and Paranoia. I collected a lot of obscure (and awesome) rules supplements for the Traveler. I graduated college in 1990 and gave away (what an idiot!) all my gaming stuff, which included a collection of the original Squad Leader and its supplements. What a shame that nobody adapted it as a PC game, that would have been awesome!
Long time went by, and around 2003 I felt the urge to play D&D again! Not the Gygax D&D though! I hated Vancian magic as unrealistic, the abstract combat with the linear hit points. The hoops most DMs jumped through to extend the lives of their characters by giving them extra hit points, all without any thought of realism or logic. I left D&D because I wanted to have a more realistic character development and a more tactical combat system, but D&D was archetypal, and I wanted to run a D&D game. I loved the weapons lists of the Tunnels and Trolls, with its Grand Shamsheer two handed scimitars, Bhujes (a cross between an hand axe and a bowie knife), Assegai and Jambiya African spears, ALL historic weapons used by mankind, and all calling for a more sophisticated combat system than D&D, and Tunnels and Trolls was even simpler and sillier. RuneQuest had a great skill system with built in experiential improvement, but the combat system was cumbersome and it was a time consuming pain to represent NPC's in the game much like it now with the Wizards if the Coast version of D&D. So, D&D it was, but which D&D? White Box D&D (and I got all of the books off e-bay for pennies on the dollar)? Advanced Dungeons and Dragons? Again, I got every volume for the AD&D first edition though the 2nd Edition, where I got every printed soft cover Complete Book Of. I also got the exemplars of the DM's Guide from subsequent editions to see if there are any gems of DMing advice, and what I found instead, was a brand new game, that was trying to be a pencil and paper version of Diablo.
Back in 2004 I was sitting near Ghost Town, Elizabeth, NJ, much like that girl Alice of the Wonderland fame just before she saw the White Rabbit. I was watching the container ships being unloaded across the water on Staten Island, just north of Goethals Bridge and I held in my hand Gygax's Players Handbook. And as I read through it, it dawned on me that these were not just game rules, Gygax was a thinker, a philosopher, and in his writing of D&D there was his take on the world, his version of history. I may disagree with some of the game mechanics, but there was an underlying current of thought in his writing, and at that moment I decided to read his core books from cover to cover and play essentially, Advanced D&D in the 1st edition. It took another three years, to gobble up more books and modules, and to actually start playing in 2006. In 2007 I started the Midlands campaign in its first incarnation. It lasted one year and 8 months, and then people lot jobs, got divorced, moved away, and the game fizzled. The second incarnation of the same campaign started in January 2010 and ran for about two years and a half. Then it halted and went on a hiatus. The block happened for an unexpected reason. After the battle, there was the Baron's Victory Celebration. I scripted the event for the first group - politics, intrigue, romance etc., but the second group had different characters, different personalities, different chemistry. In order for the Victory Celebration to do its magic for the second time, I had to rewrite the whole event for the second group, and I was too busy. Also I needed to re-arrange how I displayed the party stats, so as to have a smoother narration, and I decided to make the truly dynamic character sheets.
I have already designed a computerized character sheet that changed its configuration based on character class selected. It listed critical game information at your fingertips and you did not have to do any arithmetic figuring out how much you need to roll. I also wanted to create a Unified D&D system of tables for easy access when needed. I had already made a Master Non-Weapon Proficiency list of all the skills, useful and ridiculous, that were introduced in every second edition supplement. It was a huge list, and combined with the skills that I introduced, that were not previously published, and when all was said and done, the list was just under 350 skills. And so, having previously worked with the Excel and InfoPath, I turned my attention to Microsoft Access, and as the very first step in the data consolidation and the dynamic AD&D forms, I started entering D&D tables into Access, from the very first, the STR ability table in Players Handbook, until the very last one. I will eventually get it done, and resume playing long before then.
I do one table a day...