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Archive for September, 2013

dragonlance clanA new campaign kicks off as soon as the latest, greatest, and last public playtest hits the servers. While we have been playing (if you can call it that) a mega-dungeon crawling campaign of my own design, I want to try something new. A dragonlance dalliance.

The Dragonlance saga begins around level 4, so there will need to be an introductory adventure. In this case I have chosen, because it is new and shiny, the newly released adventure Murder in Baldur’s Gate. This adventure is the first new product released by D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast in a long time, and it is playable in any edition of D&D, with specific rules covering editions III, IV, and V. Great concept and I hope they stick with it. The adventure is also the same one being played at Encounters, the weekly public play event semi-sponsored by the publisher. I say semi-sponsored, because dm’s now have to purchase the adventure themselves, rather than receiving it as a reward for their time and effort to provide new and returning players a great fun time week after week.

Murder-In-Baldurs-Gate

Furthermore, the adventure is co-written by Ed Greenwood, legendary creator of the Forgotten Realms, and is set in one of the Realms iconic cities. Baldur’s Gate is one of the three major cities in that most popular of Game Worlds, and countless, books, games, and other tie-ins have been based in Baldur’s Gate, including a wildly popular computer game series from the very late 90’s, fittingly titled Baldur’s Gate.

The adventure is a complete mini-campaign setting, and includes a book detailing the city itself. There is a fold-out screen with a beautiful map on one side and pertinent information about the city on the other. This product is truly a sight to behold, and I have high hopes for the adventure, which is a non-linear mystery focusing on exploration, interaction, and problem solving, as well as the usual busting of heads and the emptying of pockets of the recently deceased. The campaign setting also details a Forgotten Realms “re-boot” for the new edition of D&D. I have not completely read up on what exactly the “Sundering” entails, but I hope to find a way to mesh the “Sundering” with the “Cataclysm” of Dragonlance 300 years prior to the start of the campaign which led to the abandonment of the world by the gods. Somehow I will also have to transport the party from the pre-cataclysm normal times of Baldur’s Gate into the post-cataclysm of the Dragonlance saga.

Baldur’s Gate is a big, important fantasy city. So I am going to rip it, whole cloth, out of the Forgotten Realms and plunk it down somewhere in my own campaign world D’Erte. I do this because I have never been a fan of published game worlds, mostly because I do not like worry about breaking ‘canon.’ My games get crazy and I do not like to have to rein them in to keep them within the bounds of a normal published setting.This is also why I generally do not run store-bought adventures. I have no hesitation about building my game out of the components of published works. This campaign will be a testament to that. Really, my own world D’Erte, is purposefully pretty vague so that it is easier to graft build into it whatever I need. There is a fine place for Baldur’s Gate along one of the coasts of D’Erte and it looks like a 300 year cataclysm is about to sweep my game world as well.

DL1

After Baldur’s Gate, the real campaign will begin. There are 16 adventures in the original saga, though I think we will somewhere between 9 and 11, the climax of the epic tale. The later adventures contain wargames, campaign guides, alternate time-lines and other weird stuff. Who knows! Dragonlance originally released in the mid 1980’s as a line of adventures with a tie in trilogy of novels. The novels are great reads, I highly recommend them, and they are written by the creators of the Dragonlance game world and adventure saga. Tracy and Laura Hickman and Margaret Weiss have become legends of world and game design themselves, and this is the vehicle which launched their fame.

DL2

When I first started playing dungeons and dragons, this is one of the first “campaigns” we played. I was not the DM when I played this series, my good friend Roge was the DM, and he did a bang up job. The memories of those games are faded into the mists of time, but I am excited to replay them, this time from the other side of the screen, not least because it will give me a chance to relive some of those halcyon days of yore.

DL3

This campaign will feature characters that the players create. This will cause a bit of trouble during the Saga, due to the intricate, intertwining personalities and backgrounds of the original heroes of the saga. (The game is meant to be played with pre-generated characters, with a very doubtful guideline for creating one’s own,if they feel they must.) In order to combat this I plan on giving the players some background and personality cues that map to specific characters from original storyline. This should help with continuity as well as role playing opportunities.

Considering of role playing opportunities, this campaign is designed to be more “immersive” than past games. Our best gaming experiences have been with campaigns that have lasted for over a year, yet the past couple years have seen nothing but short games. It has been fun, trying out everything from modern zombie apocalypse, to Temple of Elemental Evil with Pathfinder Beginner Box. But at some point I wanted to get back into an epic campaign. Epic stories are one of the reasons I play this game.

DL4

So all this epicness and immersion, and role playing will come at a price. My goal is to have as many people in our group as possible commit to renewing our efforts to be here week after week, on time and ready to play. The recent Friday Game Nights have become erratic with wildly varying levels of interest and participation, and this includes me.

Friday Game Nights, however, are too important to see them slide into decline like this. For many of us (me at least) it is the only time to socialize in an otherwise busy, work-filled week. It is a chance to be creative, to flex our imaginations; to interact and try to solve problems in unique ways; to make each other laugh, to entertain and be entertained; and finally we have really great food and drink. Some people go to clubs, some people have dinner parties, some people just crash in front of the monitor. We make up stories and roll dice and have fun in the comfort of my home, and I hope it continues like that forever

DL5

That is the course plotted for the next year or so of gaming around my table, starting next Friday night. Starting with character creation using the final playtest packet for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, we will play the newest published adventure as an introduction to the epic saga of Dragonlance, using the original adventure modules published back in the glorious hey-day of dungeons and dragons, when church pastors were foaming at the mouth over the demon worshipping role players, and Tom Hanks was telling us that make-belive leads to madness.

Dragonlance 6 is my favorite of the set, not least because of the incredibly cool artwork and because of my love of white dragons. (Oops, did I give away too much?) It is also the one I remember most as a 7th grader, when my duelist Alec LeFont met his end on the deck of an ice-runner. Damn you Roge! I had a grappling hook!

DL6

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underground streamThe space behind the door is only rough-hewn and irregular. It appears to be a natural cove of some sort which was worked to make it larger in places. It is about 25′ across and goes 40′ south. A small stream – about 15′ wide at one place, but only 6′ or 7′ wide elsewhere – runs south along the far wall. There are 3 buckets and several barrels in the place, but nothing else.

(Each encounter is built upon the bones of the previous encounter, yet each one is also self contained, and everyone is invited to play!)

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DungeonDoorYou arrive at a door. What do you do?

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Cat-PentagramDarkness. Then…

Whoosh — Pop!

After feeling stretched as thin as a string to the moon, suddenly you all stand in the center of a dimly lit chamber.

Set into one wall a large iron pot hangs over a banked fire. Beakers bubble and fizz amongst a chaotically cluttered counter, and one wall holds shelves of books. It is obviously some sort of laboratory or alchemical workroom. A closed door appears to be the only egress.

Looking down, you find a runic pentagram carefully carved into the stone floor, and though you can all move around within the confines of the circle, moving beyond that invisible line seems impossible.

A small pile of hissing green slime shares your space, expanding slowly outward.

(Each encounter is built upon the bones of the previous encounter, yet each one is also self contained, and anyone may participate.)

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orc-and-pieThe open doorway reveals a square chamber, thirty feet wide. There are doors in the north, east, and west walls.

In the center of the room is a three legged table and a three legged stool. A steaming hot pie rests on the table, and an orc sits on the stool, poking at the pie with his spiked club.

You are all hungry for pie. What do you do?

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DoorYou arrive at a door, what do you do?

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