Friday, November 20, 2015

Thought of the Day... #2 - Is it worth being a bit of a "Jerk" about Alignment?

This meme is a total lie, P. Bubs is totally not Lawful Good by any stretch of the imagination... 

Listening to a recent Play on Target podcast on Character Behavior and Alignment while in the car and trying to move between a dozen reports at work and started thinking again about Alignment.

I have a pretty tortured history with Alignment and Morality in D&D and other Fantasy Heartbreakers, which is told partially through my previous (and often snarky, fair warning) posts on Alignment, as well as two of my character's from the Ginger Giant's games, the often equally hated (by other PCs, at least) Sid and Uwain.

What I'm thinking about now, is how much I should push players to play Alignment/Morality. In my Shattered World game, I made the decision to leave Alignment off, figuring that the Icons and NPCs would be able to enforce any moral issues I decide to make an issue of.

Now, I'm gearing up to start running Out of the Abyss with my Sunday group, and I'm wondering how much I should enforce their alignment. Do I just have them choose a few Ideals from the D&D 5e Backgrounds? Do I try and write up something like the Dungeon World Alignments, which seems like time I could spend on doing other prep for Out of the Abyss (which is incredibly prep heavy for a DM already) or for my two other ongoing games or for my upcoming Dread one shot. Or I could try and steal the Noble, Fear and Rage Passions from Unknown Armies? Do I just admit that of my playing group it seems like I'm the only one who feels like Alignment is an important part of the game and let my players choose various Good or Neutral alignments as they wish without trying to enforce "alignment" morality and keeping my mouth shut when "good" characters decide to be cruel or dishonest because they think they can get away with it?

One thought I have is to reward players who play close to the alignment they put on their sheet by giving them a mechanical boost against Madness, which will be a huge part of Out of the Abyss, but I also need to read the Madness section of the 5e DMG again and decide how by the book I want to go with Madness or how much I want to change for ease of play and/or avoid the Malkavian problem of people playing insanity as "wacky". But then, if we don't define alignments well, it becomes more of a case of "are you playing that alignment the way Zack imagines it?"

In any case, the podcast has it in my mind again, that I really do wish I could have each PC commit to a moral code they would hold to, more like Vampire morality paths than D&D's alignments, but I know that is utterly unfeasible to try and pry that out of most players.

Further complicating things, in Al-Qadim Church, I'm playing an Evil priestess of a Chaotic Evil goddess, Ragarra, and I find myself thinking that I need to work with Thomas to come up with a good well-written code of ethics to abide by. Last session there was a moment where one of the other players went with a very "traditional" D&D Heroic Good impulse to risk his PC and the party save a fairly helpless NPC and my PC argued against it and almost ordered him not to, as if the NPC was weak enough to die, then that was that and he should be left to die in the river or re-captured and murdered by gnolls. Now, my problem is when I play non-good characters, I tend to think a lot more about what code of ethics/behavior they actually hold to, which I haven't really done yet with Thema.

Anyway, this has gotten way long for what was supposed to be a quick "Thought of the Day" but y'all can consider it as an open thread to discuss Alignment with me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True Ingredients/"Masticating is Awesome" - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 4 - GM Commentary

First, go listen to Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast - Pudding Party Part 1 as that is the session that I'll be commenting on. A Red and Pleasant Land is abbreviated as aR&PL below. Also, spoilers for the podcast, though I'll hide any spoilers for the players about upcoming sessions.

Comments are in roughly chronological order as I listen to the podcast for the umpteenth time...

I decided to switch the intro song to the Legendary Pink Dots "Crumbs on the Carpet" and embrace fully the food theme...

Dinner whispers, "come and get it", poses on a plate
We shot it twice with anesthetic, still it bites the waiters
Till they're bleeding in the loo
So goddamned hot it burns their shoes
We lick them clean, we eat 'em too
Still there's room enough for more masala,
enchilladas, monkey brains and donkey doo
More masala, enchilladas, monkey brains and donkey doo
We'd eat the wall if it could walk and we could sink our forks in
We are what we eat
We are many-sided
Just you name it, sure we've tried it
Why hide it
(More masala, enchilladas, monkey brains and donkey doo)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pudding Party Part 1 - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 4

Here is the fourth installment of our Actual Play of A Red & Pleasant Land utilizing the World of Dungeons 1979 rules set and Planarch Codex options. The Stonestrike Sisters and Ochen set off to fetch a pudding for the Witch, Thomasina, meeting new "friends" and discovering truths about all the delicious foods they've been eating.

Pudding Party Part 1 - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 4

And here is the Green and Pleasant Map I'm using, from Dyson's Dodecahedron

Sunday, November 8, 2015

True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates - Notes and Loot

Here for your edification are the notes I ran my planned Extra Life session, The True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates off of...

Thanks again to everyone who donated to my Extra Life page and all of the players, as well as James and the Ginger Giant for organizing the event.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Running True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates - Extra Life

Watch along as I provide twitter updates on running my "True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates" session for our D&D Extra Life event, I'm only running this 1 three hour session, but I'll be playing in three more for a total of 12 straight hours of D&D before I get up to attend Sun-AD&D Al Qadim Church.

Play starts at: Noon CST Saturday 11/7
For ages bold or insane adventurers have sought the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates, clearing out or perishing in its many impostors, starving on mountain tops where it was falsely rumored to be... They went seeking the secret of the Stairway to the Stars, to use for good or ill and for the many treasures, artifacts and mysteries that surely must be buried with a being as powerful as the dread and infamous Sid. Now you've been hearing it whispered by sages and lunatics that the Lich Whipple constructed his lair above the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates, and you would consider them mad to think so, except for the map you hold in your hands. Dare you descend below the Lich's lair to discover the secrets of the True Tomb of Isidore Philokrates? Will you be the first to plumb its dark depths in ages or will you find those who have come before waiting?
This session is for 4-5 PCs and is an improvised Death Trap Dungeon, in the style of White Plume Mountain and Tomb of Horrors.

More Stuff!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Courage of my Convictions - Death Trap Dungeon Speech

Go ahead, stick your arm in there, you know you want to...

So, earlier today I was reminded of my extended Killer GM Syndrome Rant... 

And now you're thinking, Zack you hypocritical asshole, you're the one who ran Grim World a few weeks ago, who posted a thought about jackasses making traps have consequences when they are disarmed, who is designing a Death Trap Dungeon as his part of the mega-dungeon to run for Extra Life (go donate if you haven't) and just posted a Facebook event for a Dread game where you included in the description "Fair warning, I'm hoping that this will be intense and nightmarish..." and linked to the Scott Walker/SUNN O))) song "Herod 2014" as the thematic inspiration which has been described thusly in the Quietus...

Take 'Herod 2014' for example, which is ostensibly about a mother hiding her firstborn from the king's terrible edict:
"She's hidden her babies away
"Their soft gummy smiles
won't be gilding the menu.
"The deer fly, the sand fly
the tsetse can't find them.
"The goon from the Stasi
is left far behind them.
She's hidden her babies away.

The potential to further explore Herod's slaughter of the first born is ignored, thankfully, in favour of a different kind of horror, one that is hard won and slow to reveal itself. And one that is explored with an efflorescence of vivid imagery:
"She's hidden her babies away
"And why bring them out
with no shelter on offer.
"The nurseries and creches
are heaving with lush lice.
"Bubonic, blue-blankets,
run ragged with church mice.
"The Havana has died
in the clam-shell ashtray.
"She's hidden her babies away."

And by the time we get to the 'punchline' - his vision is revealed as a retreat away from reality. A retreat away from sanity. A retreat away from existence itself. This horror is pure shock not schlock and Lovecraftian in its intensity:
"A R-e-a-c-h-i-n-g L-o-n-g A-r-m-e-d
vet ape
feeling hard
for a breech birth.
"I gaze up at the night,
at the asterisk's blazing,
"till they straighten,
and like tiny spines,
fall to earth.
"I bite down on this,
as I dance
and I pray.
"She's hidden her babies away."

And yeah, that's all true... I can't really deny that, what I can do is set expectations, as I think I tried to outline in my rant. So when I ran Grim World, I told my players that Death was a strong possibility, and that I wanted to see a PC die because I wanted to see just how Grim World made PC death cool. And the PC death that occurred in Grim World was cool, didn't happen because of me even, when the players figured out the ritual to stop Chaugnar required a human sacrifice, the Templar volunteered and through his Death Move became an unstoppable murder machine bent on stopping Chaugnar at any cost, which though it made it hard for me to build a challenging encounter with the Templar basically getting a critical hit on every roll, it was awesome and tied into the "Be a fan of the players’ characters" principle.
Similarly, for Dread, I'll do my standard Dread spiel on part of the fun being giving into the tension, intensity and horror of the game and that death is an expected part of the second half of the game. So then, consider what follows a rehearsal of my Death Trap Dungeon speech that I'll give on Saturday.

Thought of the Day... #1 - Traps with consequences for Disarming

Here is a "Though of the Day" that's completely unrelated to any Death Trap Dungeons I'm currently designing (I swear), but wouldn't a clever/evil/spiteful creator of a dungeon make traps that have secondary traps that are only triggered when they're disarmed?

Like, if the flame nozzle trap is disarmed, part of disarming it releases Rust Monsters digestive juices ruining the specific thief's tools being used?

I really like this idea because it makes use of a couple good Dungeon World moves:

  • Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities (The thief gets to find and disarm a trap, like a badass)
  • Use up their resources (Even bypassing the trap has a consequence)
  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost (If the thief realizes that disarming the flame nozzles might mean not disarming a trap later in the dungeon, will the thief/party decide that they're going to try and figure out the timing and dash through instead of disarming the trap?)
Traps are one of the things I struggle most with in Dungeon World, so this realization, while it might not fit every trap, does give me an option for when PCs are deep in a dungeon designed by an insane and powerful spell-caster or his followers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Ice King Cometh - Massive Mammoths and Wrothful Winter Wolves - Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters #4

So as of 11/4 I've raised $235 for Extra Life. Thanks to any of my blog readers who've donated, and if you haven't yet, there's still time. Due to crazy promises I made on my Facebook page, I'll be wearing the above-pictured, crazy hot Ice King costume when Christy and I play Fiona and the Ice King during the 6pm-9pm slot. Due to additional crazy promises, I'll be wearing the ridiculous blond wig Christy got for her Fiona costume while I play Alice from 3pm-6pm. Further more, I made a promise to find an Alice appropriate dress to wear if I hit $250 by 4pm CST Friday 11/6/15, so if that motivates you, go donate.

If you're a blog reader and you've donated, there's still time to claim a reward (and or to donate and claim a reward).

Given the character commitments I've already made, here are the rewards still available.

  • Force me to play a wacky character off my list of Characters Too Ridiculous to play if I can (the DMs get veto power on PCs, so the intensely wacky characters might require a bit of finagling on my part but I'll try my damnedest or trick one of the other DMs into running a 5 minute mini-session or something) - DEADLINE 6AM CST Friday 11/6/15
  • Record a video of myself speaking in character, in an accent determined by donors during play. Those of you who listen to the actual play podcast or who game with me in real life know how mortifyingly bad my accents/voices usually are. DEADLINE 11AM CST Saturday 11/7/15
  • Pick out dialogue from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass (the books only, not any movies or other adaptations please.) that I have to utter in character as Alice. DEADLINE 6AM CST Saturday 11/7/15
So comment or email me antagonist.relations(at)gmail(dot)com if you want to claim a reward.

For this installation of Gussying Up D&D 5e Monsters, I've chosen the Mammoth and Winter Wolf, not because they're especially terrible monsters, they're actually pretty okay as written, but more because I realized it's been over a month since I've gussied up any monsters and the current heat wave has me dreaming of sub-zero temperatures and Wintry Arctic Adventures...

Post-Apocalyptic Names

As I'm prepping to run a Godless mini-campaign, I wanted to have a good post-apocalyptic name table to draw from. The Apocalypse World...