About Me

Friday, August 15, 2014


I went through a foot high stack of my D&D papers yesterday. This were all my notes and work on the Midlands campaign going back to 2003. There were rules mods, computer projects, game running notes and adventure materials etc. My campaign got swallowed by a mega dungeon, but I needed that learning experience. Of course, there was no way to take players from the start to level 12 at the terminating end of the campaign in 2 or three years anyway. Midlands campaign is unique because I have a beginning, the middle and the conclusion fleshed out. What makes it a sandbox is that the players are free to choose and act as they wish while the time ticks and runs through its course. There is no railroading or a story arch; what we have instead is the sweeping flow of events, like a war, but not quite, that will wash everything away or now; so that characters may never come across the antagonist, or they may, or they may join forces with it.

I am almost ready for the game. I have two dungeon sites in mind, those are easy. It is fun to write out the story line, and that itself is an adventure for me, without combat or hex exploration, or the dungeon crawl. I had a four hour one on one game session, with one of my players, whose character almost got killed, who spent a month in game time recuperating in a village, almost no hit points and no capacity to fight. These were all role playing encounters of meeting people, befriending them or not, and making decisions about what to do. I just laid out a social encounter table and a bunch of NPC's and the story took off on its own. The player had the excellent common sense to avoid all of the scripted pitfalls, and then some, and did quite well for himself. He paid the local smith a good sum for a high quality blade, then went to look for some bones (were used for their calcium to make high quality steel during the dark ages), and by a dint of a randomly generated event, he risked his life and found some special stuff that made for a magical weapon, in the creation of which the player role played participation. So, that part is the only one that needs doing before I can run the next session.

Then there is the trio of the humongous projects that I got:

1- I want to do a system, where all the game data is inputted, and the computer configures and prints out a character sheet with a stat display configured to a specific character class. I have laid out a DM's display, where each character's skill checks and to hit and be hit rolls are pre-figured and laid out with all of their unique bonuses and penalties applied, so I just need to look up the stat and roll as I am telling the story. Still working on it.

2- I am creating a database of all the monsters from MM1, MM2, Fiend Folio and all of the AD&D 2nd supplements. It is searchable by level, terrain type, and creature type.

3-I have yet to start doing a similar thing for all of the spells. Different spell groups (Magic User, Illusionist, Wu Jen) and schools of magic will be tied to specific regions and cultures of the game world and specific wizards guilds etc, for the players to have to search for via adventuring.

I already have some sort of a computer generated character sheet, so I am good to go, if I relax my perfectionism and desire to have everything completed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting Back in the Game

I have a bunch of candles. All different sizes, different ornate candle holders, frozen candle wax in intricate flows and rivulets frozen in time. I haven't lit them in quite a while, because I hadn't had time. Two very important activities in my life is writing and D&D. The latter being a form of the former. I hadn't had time to write, except at work, and poetry disguised as routine texts with my girlfriend. I have a blog that nobody reads, least of all my players, for whom this thing was initially set up to give background reading for the game. Game ended when the girlfriend moved in. That had something to do with it, but coincidentally, the campaign completed its two year and a half year life span at the same time, one of the players moved on, I got promoted and reassigned at work. It wasn't a perfect storm, but things have changed.

My homebrew AD&D campaign is something that I could never publish - a derivative syncretism of the others rules and work from about 20 years ago. I could salvage a fantasy novel based on the setting and only some of the events, and could potentially write a ground breaking fantasy role playing game supplement, but that's not the point. I was drawn and mystified by the D&D illustrations of the fantastic world full of magic on the edge of reality with its unexplored forests and mountains looming in the distance. This was akin to the concept of the musical album cover art from the seventies. Whatever the music, whatever the artist, the album cover featured a high quality drawing of a concept or illustration designed to get the record sold. Very little of the musical recording matched what was on the cover. It was a difficult venture for a kid spending a small fortune of ten dollars for a record that in all likelihood will sound awful. World of D&D was similar - it promised the romance of the exploration and of the unknown, but featured all too human combat, monsters, and treasure, even the magic in the game was mundane and functional, especially, when compared with the genuine eastern mysticism.

Had I picked up the Moldway red box set and played right there and then, I may have seen what the game really was, as it was played, left it behind and moved on, but I came from a small town, population of 1500 smack into the middle of New York City, and it took a while for me to find friends, and even longer to find a D&D game. In the meantime the seed grew, picking up, where memories of my small town, Bradbury like, in places, ended. Back then, we would walk around between our school, and our homes, the movie theater and the single strip mall that we had, and we talked of the mysteries of the space and of the UFOs, ancient civilizations and archeological dog sites, and wars and politics, and nuclear weapons and of dangerous criminals, competing in story-telling and in playing war, and out all that ball of beeswax something approaching a long term live action role-playing game emerged. It had no formal rules, but it HAD rules, you couldn't make too outrageous claims when role playing some imperial grand duke, and pissing contests were a no-no, and there was even a single six sided die, that was used when the game took on the form of playing with the toy soldiers.

I had a pretty decent success recreating the same atmosphere, if not the mood, at my AD&D game table. By dint of the lack of experience, I let a mega dungeon get in the way of the developing campaign. It was the equivalent of the trench warfare in the art of the tactical troop movement in more ways than one. And so, D&D is part of my soul and I will get the game running again. Getting a player a two is no big deal, getting a steady group of six is almost an insurmountable challenge. Developing a story to play is easy, dungeon even easier, but the underground adventure grown like fungus, and if left unchecked, can consume your campaign story setting like cancer. That is, if you are like me, and have a grand mysterious world outside the dungeon. The real challenge is getting the D&D done in the face of other priorities and activities in your life.