Sunday, February 27, 2011

A plan for March

So, I'm relatively certain that most of my readership has kind of dwindled off since I've stopped posting regularly. Though a fair chunk of my time has been held up by classes, assignments and work, I know that I've definitely been wasting a lot of my time on internet forums and video games that could be better spent updating this blog and working on my gaming stuff. For March, I propose a little experiment.

I am going to take an hour of every day in March to work on blog stuff and get a post up. Some stuff may be detailed, some stuff may be sketchy. Maybe it'll just be a random description of a magic item or an orbital satellite, but at least it'll be consistent.

So here's to more Motherlode, here's to Uresia B/X and here's to my new Savage Worlds asskicking sci-fi project tentatively titled Assholes in Space (which I'll probably have to retitle at some point since my real name is on this blog). HERE'S TO ACTUALLY UPDATING THIS THING.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dungeons and Discworld

Posting is probably going to be a bit slow for the next two weeks, as midterms are rearing their ugly heads. So I thought I'd do a post about my recent listening material (going through Disc 7 of Thief of Time right now.)

Some of the chiefest influences in my Motherlode game have been Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Though I have explored Appendix N as far as I could find through our public library system and swaths of used book stores (not to mention a pretty sweet trade with Scott of Huge Ruined Pile), I keep finding myself coming back to Great A'Tuin and the fantasy world balanced on his back.

First of all, the books are hilarious, not only for fans of fantasy but Anglophiles, cinema buffs and academics alike. I've spent many an hour just laughing at the assorted mottos of the Guilds of Ankh-Morpork and still think that if the BBC were smart, they should start adapting the Night Watch series into seasons of excellent television. But something about them also hits that part of my mind that is inspired by games like Moldvay Basic and Swords and Wizardry, and I think Pratchett explains it best in the introduction to the Art of Discworld:
The twist is that it is taken seriously; not taken seriously as a fantasy, but taken seriously as a world... So Discworld works, more or less. People plow fields, file things, make candles, deliver letters and babies, produce newspapers, perform daily the thousand minor miracles that keep a city fed. Magic has pretty much the same status as nuclear power: under control it is useful, perhaps even essential, but too much reliance on it comes with a disproportionately high price tag, and only a loony would use it to catch fish...
That sort of darkly humorous fantasy ethos just seems to fit with my preconceptions about Basic D&D. Being clever and willing to improvise can be just as important as any martial prowess or arcane power; at Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University, learning how to manipulate magical forces is much less important than learning how not to use them.

Discworld also wears its modern influences on its sleeve, which I very much appreciate. I've never really understood the draw towards a purely medieval fantasy world, probably because I grew up on westerns, Hong Kong action movies and comic books. There should be black powder, even if there aren't guns; clockwork creations even if there's no steam power; a telegraph-esque service even without copper wires and electricity. Familiar elements like that seem to make it easier for players to understand how a fantasy world works, instead of having to approximate a brief history of hamlets in the Middle Ages every time the party wants to go to a tavern.

Hopefully, this influence will be reflected in the game and make Motherlode something a little to the left of a typical fantasy town.

Art by Paul Kidby. Some of the best page-to-picture translations I've ever seen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Motherlode: A Quick Sketch

In working on the town of Motherlode, I decided to just make a quick sketch of important places that could be expanded upon or added to as I continued developing the idea. Unfortunately, I never got to really flesh out a lot of these ideas, as my friends never really visited most of the locations in town. I'm going to spend some time on the blog expanding these ideas and trying to populate Motherlode a little more.

Taverns and Other Places of Ill Repute
- The Empty Casket
- The Dragon's Hoard
- Fat Tom's
- The Rusty Pickaxe
- Mulligan's
- The Irish Deer
- The Wanton Wench
- The Ravished Ruby

Other Places of Interest
- Looter's Row, where tomb robbers and snake oil salesmen sell uncovered artifacts and forgeries alike. Some people don't know what they really have.
- Pleasant and Co. Explorer's General Store, sells rope, lanterns, iron rations, et al. Everything you need to get lost in a tomb complex.
- The Church of Antra, goddess of underdogs. Fortune favors the bold, and Sister Bradabax takes it to heart. Bit of a drinking/arm wrestling problem.
- Marshal's Office, the only iron-framed building in town, meant to hold even ogres and other giant troublemakers. The Marshal has orders all the way from the City of the Cathedral to keep the peace and does.
- Cathedral Claims Office, where master appraisers let adventurers know just how much that statue is worth before they sell it for booze money.

Hopefully, I'll be able to expand on these ideas in the next few weeks while I'm not working on schoolwork.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Motherlode: Back to Basics

Before I embarked on the initial Motherlode campaign, I'd spent a large chunk of time defining the background of the setting, the different capital cities and their populations, the special things about each race. As time went on, I found myself becoming less and less inspired by the fluff that I had written. So forget Shrapnel and the City of the Cathedral for the time being. In this new imagining, I'm just going to start at Square One: the boomtown of Motherlode.

The initial idea of Motherlode was inspired by the gold rush boomtowns of the Wild West, small towns containing everything that a prospector needed (bunking, a general store for tools and equipment) and wanted (mostly drink and women). Only instead of veins of gold, the inhabitants of Motherlode would be searching for ancient artifacts and treasures. Motherlode is built on the outskirts of a Valley of the Kings-esque buried civilization that has just recently been discovered by university scholars, many of whom will want to hire a group of adventurers for protection in these delves. Or you could always buy a hastily drawn ruin map from a guy at a tavern. It's all up to you

Motherlode can also work as one of the Mummy Towns in the Troll Lands of Uresia: Grave of Heaven (of which I will be posting some more about in the future. Needless to say, it will have to do with some cool conversion-type stuff)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Old School D&D My Way 2: Old School Harder

Posting has unfortunately been a bit sporadic recently, as my girlfriend is visiting for the first time in what seems like months and I try and spend as much time as I reasonably can with her when she's here. Still working over ideas for games with my friends, as I've had impassioned pleas of "When are we going to play some D&D?" to "When are we going to kick off that Feng Shui game that I was excited about?" All this plus ongoing schoolwork and reading 5 books a week for Resources for Young Adults. I'm conflicted. :)

A few of you folks may remember a post that I did before I disappeared off of the face of the earth called Old School D&D My Way, which I think captured a lot of what I've been trying to accomplish with my D&D musings. I was born in the tail end of the 80s and came into gaming well after the majority of people who are revisiting old-school games from their youth. I've become much more exposed to the influences surrounding early edition D&D in recent months, but at the time I thought that immersing myself in thematically appropriate material would help me get old school D&D better than I did.

In retrospect, it was a bad decision.

Though I did add some personal elements to my Swords and Wizardry game, mostly the quasi-Western setting, I really didn't feel like I put enough of myself into it. I just got so inspired by other people's stuff that I thought a patchwork assemblage of their work would somehow result in a great game for me. Now I know that's not the case and I'm going to try my damnedest to put together a D&D game that I feel is mine.

In the coming weeks, I'll probably be using Fistful of Coppers as a public forum to work all of this stuff out. I hope that some of you will find it interesting.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So, I know I'm late to the party and all, but...

Anyone else catch the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons episode of Community? All in all, I thought it was a really solid portrayal of the good and the bad, not to mention a great new reservoir of character names if I ever need them. But prepare to have your mind blown.

Dan Harmon wrote the Dead Alewives Dungeons and Dragons sketch.

Yeah. That one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RIP Brian Jacques

While I was in the middle of writing another post, I heard the news that Brian Jacques has passed away at the age of 71. The Redwall books were some of the most formative fiction of my childhood. My first informal roleplaying games among friends involved the Redwall universe and as soon as I got my hands on GURPS 3rd Edition in my 6th grade year, I tried to use it to make Redwall characters. They were heroic tales, stories about community and perseverance. A lone abbey in the wilderness surviving against any onslaught thrown at it.

But mostly, they were about food. I think I can honestly say that Redwall made me into a foodie. Jacques was a master of tantalizingly describing tarts, stews, breads and cordials in a way that made my 4th grade brain hum with delight. I only really started to cook myself when I was in high school, but ever since reading the Redwall books, I wanted to try new and exciting foods wherever I went.

So thank you, Brian Jacques. You will be missed.