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September 2017

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I've been running a D&D campaign for the last... well, I mean, we met four? five? times, but the whole process has lasted more than three months. Various members of the group1 kept getting sick, and then we're maybe also just the kind of people whose default response to life is often "keep very still and hope it won't notice you".

This was a tendency we struggled with early in the game: the players wanted to do a lot of watching and waiting and careful avoiding of danger. They declined to pick up the fallen jewels and become infected with a potentially deadly plague; they declined to enter the stricken city or even explore its walls. Instead, they sensibly wandered off to find a farmhouse to sleep in.

I had to fight the impulse to hiss please stop exploring the window dressing.

All this was very educational for me about trying to provide opportunities for character motivation within a given scenario. Each week thereafter, I sat down beforehand and thought: ok, what would each of these characters want? How can I put that into the encounters? I meant to do this from the start, but I got to sink deeper into it each time.

By this final session, it was fantastic how much the players had grown into working as a team. They were playful and inventive and came up with all kinds of things I hadn't expected -- but the scenario was flexible enough to accommodate that. So we've seen growth on both sides of the screen.

No one in the party was really a warrior, since we ignored party balance in creating the characters. I liked the idea of a party made up of noncombatants. Our enforcer was a ranger, and we had a druid, a bard, a healer and a rogue. This meant that any conflict demanded much creativity both on their parts and on mine. In the first session, they spent an incredibly long time trying to defeat a large cat. (The cat won.)

Flash forward to the present.

In today's final battle, the bard exorcised an evil spirit from the healer by casting a minor spell to make her laugh hysterically until she fainted. The druid enhanced the spell effect by making fart noises.

This kind of brilliant collaboration has the side effect of making it very difficult to break up XP. (How much XP do you get for effective fart sounds?) so I just divided most of it evenly amongst them, except for the person who was missing today.

(We decided that her dragonborn rogue started shedding her skin and went into a semi-hibernation state. Because the characters' alliance is still... imperfect... she will wake up alone in the middle of the forest next to a dead body. Good place to start a story, anyway.)

I didn't come up with a Friday story this week. This might be the closest thing I did:

You wake slowly. It is midday. You sit up, groggy, aching all over. You feel like you've been dragged across the ground by your tail. In fact, a muddy groove in the grass behind you implies that this may have happened.

The last thing you remember is feeling the sudden whole-body itch and realizing with horror that you were about to start shedding your skin – at the worst possible moment. You would have curled into a ball and immediately gone into a semi-hibernatory state while your old scales fell away and your new ones grew in. The process would have taken several hours. You slept through the whole thing – whatever the whole thing was.

That explains your condition: invisibly battered yet oddly shiny.

It doesn't explain the huge stone fountain full of floating herbs, burnt sticks, and shattered bone; the still-smouldering logs scattered across the clearing; or the fondant bird plucking at your hair.

It surely can't explain the mournful sight of the charcoal-burner's corpse, arrow through his heart, lying a few feet away. Still clutched in one hand is the strange whistle you found in his house. You know, the house you burned down.

In a vast magical wood, you are alone with the remnants of some terrible battle. You have a set of gleaming new scales and a sore lower back.

What do you do now?

I haven't DMed in decades. I started to get too much stage fright about gaming in general, and I gave it up entirely around the age of 20. I never got into online RPGs. I liked the tactility of the paper and the dice and looking things up in the tomes. Mostly I loved poring over all the lists and tables.

It's been a pretty loose, freewheeling game -- I made some dice do some rolling, but play was more intuitive than anything else. A purist would shudder. I made up a lot on the fly.

Really, It was good just to play again, to have people over, and to feel well enough to want to be social. And get my dishes done in advance.


1. (Me)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-05 11:10 am (UTC)
watervole: (Default)
From: [personal profile] watervole
I like intuitive play.

I ran one entire campaign with almost no rules at all.

The 'magic' was very low key and somewhat intuitive and only one character had any magical ability. She said what she was trying to do (eg speak to a tree) and I would tell her if the tree replied.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-07 08:39 am (UTC)
watervole: (Default)
From: [personal profile] watervole
Agreed. Low magic integrates gently with the setting. What I think of as Narnia type magic.

I've played more Runequest than anything else, but we tend to move from system to system now, depending on who is GM and what setting they want to use.

There should always be some dice, though they don't have to be numbers.

Even drawing a random Tarot card can be a good way of making things happen or deciding an event.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-05 12:57 pm (UTC)
moon_custafer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moon_custafer
A friend of mine sent me an audio recording of a game he once ran in which no one was interested in the plot he had set up and all went off to look for employment in his quasi-Venetian city.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-05 08:15 pm (UTC)
moon_custafer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moon_custafer
I think one of the rogues went somewhere looking for a job, semi-accidentally killed the bureaucrat who saw him, and then hired himself to fill that guy's place.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-06 02:36 am (UTC)
moon_custafer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moon_custafer
You have to imagine my friend describing, in a rather RP British accent, the process of the character searching the cupboard for the forms to record his predecessor's death, arrange his funeral, and give himself the job at a generous starting salary.

It may have made up for everyone's lack of interest in the mysterious jester he sent to talk to them in the previous scene.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-06 08:09 pm (UTC)
moon_custafer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moon_custafer
I never found out exactly. I think he was trying to set up a Tarot-deck-inspired mystery plot or something. But everyone was just "$&?! off, juggler, we're not interested."

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