T is for Telling Stories #AtoZChallenge

my other hobby ii

my other hobby ii (Photo credit: Laenulfean)

The whole point of this month’s journey into my world of roleplaying gaming is telling stories. Whether it’s mildew emanating from the wet dungeon walls or swashbuckling paragoblins dueling to the death, hacking and slashing through ranks of gnolls or parrying and thrusting with clever words, the shared story is the thing.

Roleplaying is a unique form of game in this respect. A group of people build from a starting premise concocted by the gamemaster (or found in a purchased adventure book), each adding her or his own personal touch to the experience. No two gaming sessions, even with the same printed adventure, will be the same. A party consisting of all gnomes will be quite a different party than one mixing a half-orc barbarian, an elf ranger, a human bard and a tiefling sorcerer. Each character/race combination brings special skills and abilities, just as each player does.

I’m a fiction writer, so when I play a game, I like to keep up with what happened each session. In the past, I kept a running log using a (tape, later digital) recorder and transcribed them. That sounds a bit obsessive to me even now, but I saw it as a way to preserve the story, to relive good times with close friends in the future.

If you’ve never played a roleplaying game before, don’t dismiss it out of hand as something only for children. Especially if you like story, you should join the group creative experience. You’ll have a great time!

Enhanced by Zemanta

S is for Sahasra #AtoZChallenge

SahasraOne of my first professional game-writing jobs was for Dog Soul Publishing, in their Folkloric series. I created the land of Sahasra, an analogue of the India of folklore. I wrote the setting book, Sahasra: Land of 1,000 Cities, following it with an adventure, Sahasra: The Spirit in the Spice Groves, and a book for incorporating religion into the campaign, The Books of Faith: Hinduism.

The books were beautifully produced, with gorgeous graphics and maps. I purposely didn’t link to them here, because I was only paid for the first book. I’ve never received payment for the others to which I was entitled, and, as far as I know, royalties are still going to Dog Soul’s owners. You can see the books at DriveThruRPG, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve heard countless stories of game writers not getting paid, and it’s not a happy experience. I may see if I can get the rights for Sahasra reverted to me. It’s a fun and exciting setting, and I’d love to actually be able to do something else with it. We’ll see.

Here’s a bit from the overview of the setting book:

Sahasra, the Land of 1000 Cities is an exotic region of urban settlements interspersed with wild forests. The land mass juts out into the ocean and is roughly equivalent to India—the India of ancient folktale, legend and sacred text. Rich cities are ruled by kings and their beautiful queens.  Dark terrors lurk in the forests and burial grounds. Fabulous artifacts await the adventurer clever enough to find them.

Although the tales about King Vikramaditya and the variously-named vetala (goblin, genie and vampire are a few of the translations of the word) were first written down about 1070 AD, they were passed down as oral tradition for over a thousand years. The settings of these stories exist without historical context, however, and easily fit into any fantasy campaign. The focus is primarily on city dwellers who travel between urban areas by land or, less frequently, by sea—and even once by air in a magical flying chariot. Their concerns are universal—love, wealth, power, spiritual enlightenment—but from the perspective of rulers, counselors and merchants, rarely that of the villager or farmer.

The inhabitants of Sahasra are passionate people, given to impulsive actions. King Vikrama makes a promise to a stranger that nearly costs him his life, merely on the basis of the stranger’s rich gift. A young prince falls desperately in love with a woman at first sight and vows to marry her, even when she tries to poison his best friend. Another love-sick prince cuts off his own head as an offering to the gods because he had promised to do so if she became his bride; fortunately her prayers restore him to life.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Q is for Querulous #AtoZChallenge

querulousThe word “querulous” is an adjective as well as a noun, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (my favorite dictionary, in case you wondered, access provided through our campus library). Why am I writing about the word in a blog challenge about roleplaying gaming? Has the alphabetical nature of it caused me to slip into rubber-roomosity?

Just bear with me.

Yes, I could have written about Q is for Quest, which I nearly did, but the idea bored me, and I don’t really know what I would say about it that hasn’t been said already.

Is your gaming group querulous?

I have read all sorts of horror stories about gaming groups where people didn’t like each other or didn’t get along, or didn’t try. I’ve been fortunate that the groups with which I played back in college and my group now were people who got along and behaved in a friendly fashion. I know it’s common in some groups for the gamemaster to have an adversarial manner toward the players. Again, that’s not been my experience. Maybe it’s because I hate, detest and despise conflict.

If you don’t like the way the game is going, talk about it with the gamemaster one-on-one and make constructive suggestions. Do your part to keep the other players’ complaining to a minimum through positive peer pressure.

For me, life’s too short to put up with querulous people in my spare time. I can go to work and hear that.

How’s the dynamic in your gaming group? Comment below!

P is for Paraphernalia (AKA Stuff!) #atozchallenge

All you really need to play a roleplaying game is one copy of the rulebook, paper, pencils (Ticonderogas, please!) and the requisite dice. But it’s so much more fun to have additional stuff.

You’ve already seen a glimpse of my dice collection and the dice bag I use to hold them in D is for Dice, and a few painted miniature figures in M is for Minis. What’s left?

D&D tiles

D&D tiles

Knowing where your character is in proximity to the bad guys is important, so map tiles come in handy. Wizards of the Coast, publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, makes themed sets of map tiles out of thick laminated cardboard.

D&D tiles with accessory tiles

D&D tiles with accessory tiles

Paizo Publishing carries a line of Game Mastery tiles, easily affordable in thinner card stock. If you want to get really fancy, Dwarven Forge makes beautiful cast resin dungeon walls, floors, water features and accessory pieces of scenery, such as doors.

Dungeons & Dragons game in progress. Miniature...

Dungeons & Dragons game in progress. Miniatures from Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game and others on Master Maze scenery by Dwarven Forge. Around the dungeon can be seen many multi-sided dice, a character sheet (bottom left) and a D&D manual (top right). Note that the circular template at the bottom is not from Dungeons & Dragons, but rather is from Warhammer 40,000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lucite platforms and columns, called Combat Tier, are useful if you have creatures who can fly, or the need for characters to climb into the heights. They are marked with the typical one-inch-equals-five-feet grid.

Combat Tier platforms

Combat Tier platforms

Last but not least is scenery. I had great fun constructing this tavern for our Leviathan campaign, using some of the same materials for model railroad scenery.

Heart o' the Dog Tavern, made by the author

Heart o’ the Dog Tavern, made by the author

Another view of the Heart o' the Dog Tavern, being visited by Rafael Ceurdepyr and Rashmali

Another view of the Heart o’ the Dog Tavern, being visited by Rafael Ceurdepyr and Rashmali

What have I left out? What paraphernalia do you like to use in gaming? Comment below!

Enhanced by Zemanta

O is for [Davin] Orccleaver #atozchallenge

The keep of Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Corn...

The keep of Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Cornwall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The party is enjoying the famous bazaar on the outskirts of the city of Keldath, a day’s journey from Stoneshadow, the village where Grayl lived as a boy after the death of his mother.  The crowds are heavy today, and suddenly they are jostled as a beautiful young woman with black hair shoves past them.  A dwarf—a man with braided beard and scarred face and arm–presses through the crowd after her, calling anxiously for her to stop.  She climbs atop the town crier’s stand, raising her hands above her head.

Suddenly, the crowd shrinks back from the figures appearing abruptly before the stand.  In the vision, a massively built warrior fights for his life against an onslaught of dozens of ogres that seem but the vanguard of a wave of hundreds of them.  Off to one side, gloating, is a regally dressed man bearing a shield on which is affixed the crest of the House of Cernawyn.  Even at this distance, you can feel a flicker of horror that someone from the line of the present ruling House would betray such a valiant warrior.  The feeling comes from outside you, as if generated as part of the vision.

The crowd nearest the stand is obviously more affected than you, appalled and terrified by what they see, and they storm the crier’s stand.  The dwarf is shoved backward into the party by the city guards, who storm the stage and Jon recognizes him as Davin Orccleaver.  The vision stops abruptly as two guards grab the woman while others stave off the mob.  Davin demands to know where the guards are taking her.  She seems to be unconscious at this point.  They say, “We’re taking her to the administration building.  That vision or whatever she was projecting was treasonous.  The governor needs to know about this.”

At this moment, the dwarf spies Jon and recognition dawns.  “Help me, Jon,” he says.  “I’m Mistress Palethorpe’s bodyguard and I can’t let anything happen to her or her uncle might turn me into a … a halfling or something.  I don’t think I can handle all of the guards alone.  The governor’s paranoid about anything that can remotely be construed as treasonous.  He’ll hang her without a trial.”

And thus began the first adventure of our gaming group. I called it the Sachov Saga. It was far too complicated (the adventures I create tend to be, but I’m getting better), but it was the first time two members of the group had played Dungeons and Dragons, and we had a lot of fun. It was also the first time they met each other. They soon began dating, fell in love, got married and have two beautiful daughters who know what you do with monsters: Kill them and take their stuff. We’ve all (including my husband) been through a lot together, and they’re my best friends.

And to think it all started with a roll of the dice and a few character sheets.

Enhanced by Zemanta