Tuesday, June 7, 2016

State of the Blog and Games Part Two, the Seconding.

So almost six months ago, just after finishing the holiday season, I wrote a state of the blog post. Since then I’ve only written four posts. Two as “Thoughts of the Day” (though they are more substantial than I remembered), one that was a follow up to my first State of the Blog post (or at least the Battlerager part) and one on the tandem games that Thomas and I ran over the New Years. Then, since January 15th… silence and absence have ruled the blog. Now, I’m going to walk out onto (an admittedly broad and sturdy) limb and say that 99% of the three people who read this blog know me in real life, but maybe there is a loyal stray reader who happened upon this blog by chance and has followed my meandering writings, for that semi-plausible reader, here is my excuse: I got married.






Understandably, the whole wedding thing overtook my life there from early February through the end of May when we got back from our Icelandic honeymoon. So really, I have no great excuse for January and February being sparse, but by mid-March I had put my games on hiatus because I was spending my weekends drilling holes in books for our book arch and my evenings stamping d20s onto bags for favors.





Needless to say, it was an entirely nerdy affair, my wife Christy is a regular in all the games I run (you hear her on the A Red and Pleasant Land actual play podcasts), Thomas was my best man, my two other groomsmen are regulars in games I run or play in and the Ginger Giant himself was our excellent officiant/Dungeon Master. We gave away custom d6’s and (non-custom) d20’s as favors, had a kissing game that was Powered by the Apocalypse and for our polaroid photo guestbook, I designed and painstakingly cut out Magic the Gathering inspired frames. There were plenty of other nerdy and bookish details, but I’ll leave those out, but making it as awesome and geeky as we did, took up a vast amount of the free time that Christy and I have, so for most of the spring roleplaying and my blog output was sacrificed.

Thanks to Thomas, I was able to play some D&D still, both in our ongoing 2nd Edition Al-Qadim church campaign, which is consistently excellent and enjoyable and in a drunken and delightful Iceland inspired Viking two-part Manlorette D&D game that spanned two nights. In the interest of not stretching this post out too long or taking down too many other tangents, I’ve got separate blog posts planned for each of those.



The other big thing that occurred in my (unplanned) blog hiatus that added to it in some ways is the announcement by Wizards of the Coast of the 5th Edition SRD and Dungeon Master’s Guild. While I think that this is a good thing, it probably means the end of my Gussying Up Monsters, at least in the form I’d developed for that last fall. Perhaps I’ll Gussy Up a few more monsters and format a PDF to put out for free or pay what you want on the DM’s Guild, but at least for now I don’t see myself trying to re-work 5e monster stats to put out on the blog.

I spent a bit of February and early March trying to draft up my own take on weapon properties and options for the DMs Guild but it just never coalesced. And with the limitations on source material from D&D past that’s available to update and publish on the DM’s guild there’s no passion project that I can pursue there (at least now).

I have been fortunate, though, in being a sounding board and providing a little proof-reading and small suggestions to the three excellent DM’s Guild products that Thomas has put out. They are well worth paying for, and I say that as someone who got draft and review copies and still put a couple of dollars towards purchasing the final product from the site. You can view my semi-biased review of Elemental Magic of Zakhara here and find all of Thomas’ products here at the DMs Guild.


So where do my games and this blog stand now?


My Shattered World 5e D&D game picks back up tomorrow, with the PCs leveling up to 13 and a jump that will hopefully surprise the players and let me provide a satisfying end game over the next 4-6 sessions. We’d left off with the PCs at the Sacred Library, working to get access to the Heart of the World, a gigantic ruby that would let whatever icon or powerful entity that controlled it re-write the history or future of the world. After this campaign wraps up, I’m hoping to talk the group into switching to the new Apocalypse World second edition, which I backed on Kickstarter, but depending on when that is released I may run a short game of something that’s not-D&D or Powered by the Apocalypse in between.

My Out of the Abyss game continues to limp on, when we return on June 12th. That’s probably not a fair assessment but it’s been… frustrating for me. Not so much due to anything the players or PCs have done, but just for the amount of work I’ve been putting in to try and make it interesting. The book is maddeningly intriguing but poorly executed in my opinion. Expect a blog post next week where I put up some of the many aids I made myself to run the game, some thoughts so far and some comparisons to Curse of Strahd which I just got and have been reading and which has it’s own set of challenges but also has many things which would have been incredibly useful to have in Out of the Abyss and some thoughts on what I'm contemplating as fixes.

A Red and Pleasant Land Actual Play Podcast. Hopefully we’ll play again the last Friday in June and then get a regular montly-ish schedule going again. This game suffered the most from the hiatus, as we haven’t played since November due to scheduling issues even before the marriage madness descended upon me. I have, however, listened to all the podcasts again several times, and they never fail to amuse me. I really do hope that everyone else enjoys them as much as I do.

Planarch Codex, I managed to get in one game February of Planarch Codex, which continues to be one of my favorite pick-up games. I’m tempted to tweak it slightly and write out some Heritages that feel more like Planescape to me and to come up with some Factions and then do a re-boot and try for something more consistent, like an open invite 3rd Friday game where I could take what I’ve learned so far and let things build up a bit, but we’ll see as there are several other RPG projects that I’d like to get first drafts of before I work on that.

Future Games – For my birthday I’m going to run a one shot of Adventures on Dungeon Planet, which I’m pitching as:

CRASH LANDING ON THE PLANET OF THE REPTILOIDS
The intrepid ship, Zdarsky, has crashed on the dangerous and deadly S’sss’sss, Planet of the REPTILOIDS! Now the crew must scavenge for parts to repair their ship while avoiding the aforementioned savage and mammal hating Reptiloids, as well as Fur Crabs, Carnivorous Trees and even the dread and terrifying Scorpion-Pigs!



I’ve also been contemplating a second birthday game, though perhaps it will wait until later in the summer. It’s partly inspired by the Manlorette Viking D&D that Thomas ran. He gave each player a doom (inspired by the 2e Viking Sourcebook) and then whenever a player rolled a “Natural 1” on a d20 I handed out a little ‘frosting’ sticker and stamped sheets with my d20 stamp when natural 20s were rolled. I’m calling it Semi-Competi-Comic-Death Grind D&D (at least for now) and it’s something that I think would work well for an Extralife style event as well. I’ve got a first draft of the house rules I’d use and a good start on the Doom!s, glimmers, bingo and other mechanical bits I’d add on. Here’s the pitch as I’ve got it right now:

What – 5th Edition D&D at a frantic and farcical pace. Bring a roster of 1st level characters or choose from the many pre-made ones or just watch and giggle. Compete for awards like “Fastest PC Death” and “Most Humorous Monster Kill”, “Most Natural 1’s by a Player” as we throw PC after PC into the death machine of a whimsical mega-dungeon.
Players will tag in and out as they come and go, or as their PCs die and new PCs enter the dungeon. Fun will be emphasized over plot, rules or continuity of any kind as we drink. Spectators and players not currently playing will be able to participate in Death Grind D&D Bingo.
Each PC will get a “DOOOM!” and a “Glimmer” (as in glimmer of hope) and treasure (magical and not) will be plentiful. Each player will get a chance to bring back a PC as a Zombie or a Ghost.
Why – To play a light-hearted game where the stakes are high and low and then investment in PCs is just to have fun. To celebrate the absurdity of dice and marks on sheets of paper. To see if anyone manages to get a PC to second level or higher in the abattoir.

Finally I’ve got just the skeleton of a Powered by the Apocalypse game loosely based or inspired by Over the Garden Wall that I’m calling “Into the Winter Woods” and that’s all I want to let slip about that so far, though I spent a fair amount of time in Iceland thinking of what I might want to incorporate into it while I drove.

So what to expect from the blog? More consistent posts, with the return of recaps and GM commentaries as I run games, hopefully even a few more Thoughts of the Day. I’ve a few other ideas of things I’d like to bring to the blog, but I think at first I’m going to try and focus on the games I run and play in and let the blog reflect those for a little while.

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