Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Megacampaign

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in the megadungeon and sandbox styles of play, and this has been great. Real Old School stuff right there. What I'm going to suggest evolves from the old ways, invites the new, and stirs it all together like some mutant goulash. This has probably been done before and I'm okay with that, but it's kinda new for me – maybe you too.

The Megacampaign is the attempt at creating a truly persistent world for your players, where multiple campaign/adventure paths are happening at once (or similarly close in execution.) There are cross over themes, NPCs, rumors, encounters, locations and possibly even the same endgame if there's one maniacally plotting Big Bad– though that need not be necessary. What one group of characters do could possibly affect what a different group of character may experience depending on what they do and/or where they go.

My Forgotten Realms game is such a persistent world, or Megacampaign. What I've done is create an outline of adventure paths that would be fun to play out. Then look at how they might relate to one another by DM interference – or rumors of activity in the world/region – location in relationship to one another, and consequences of PC interaction or indifference. Once you pretty much have an idea where things are going, have the players roll characters to go on these adventures. Players ALWAYS are coming up with all kinds of ideas for characters to play, so this probably won't be a problem.

During play, take notes. LOTS of notes. And keep a close eye on time passage in each adventure so as to coordinate events in the world. The name of the game is persistent world, so if your world doesn't have a calender, invent one.

What's really cool about this is, you embrace the sandbox, you can have as many or as few megadungeons as you want, and you get a variety of stories from the same campaign world/region that help bring your game to life as never before.

Players are encouraged to create characters that might be related to one another as siblings or friends, as this also draws the world together. A cool side effect of this style of play is it is entirely possible for two (or more) groups to directly interact depending on where they go.

Each series of accounts of play here at OUTLAW D&D are being done this way … and there is much more to come. We like a lot of variety in our gaming, and like I said; we got a lot of character ideas we want to bring to life. Both Wizards of the Coast and old TSR have a ton of great adventure modules and, as a DM, I will not be beholden to anyone's sense of canon except my own. In order to facilitate this and have it all make sense to my players, I recall something Ed Greenwood said about magic in the Forgotten Realms, that there are all kinds of different magic available in the Realms. This got me thinking about chronomancy – and how it's careless usage, even in small doses, might affect a world.

Essentially, dates for published adventures are converted to our standard date and where paradoxes occur, a DM's ruling on the event/npc/whatever can be used to smooth things into a consistent timeline. Simple, right?

Events that are unpopular with our group, particularly the old Time of Troubles storyline, are simply stated as to not have happened and certain gods never came to power and certain gods never died. The DM should look at these decisions carefully and project the long term effects of such rulings, however. The bulk of the timeline stuff that we are playing is modern and some events of the canon past are still said to have happened; for the most part these changes in dates really haven't affected a lot of paradoxes in our game, yet.

Anyways, it is my hope that this idea has settled well in your imagination because, let me tell you – I have run singular campaigns before and felt the satisfaction of what I thought was bringing a world to life with my players … The Megacampaign is like that on super mega drugs or something … it's way better and way more satisfying …

… of course, as always … YMMV.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Comic Book Cambion – Conan the Barbarian: Red Nails

Back in 1983, Marvel Comics released their adaptation of Conan the Barbarian: Red Nails and it's really quite good. One can hardly have a comic book feature on a D&D blog without mentioning Conan a couple hundred times, so here's our virginal outing. It is true to the short story by Robert E. Howard in every way, which touchy modern readers might object to – more on that later.

Barry Windsor-Smith's artwork is alluring, distinctive, and not a bad fit for Conan. Personally, I prefer the black and white art of Savage Sword of Conan, as depicted by John Romita, best; but Windsor-Smith is by no means a hack artist. His eye for layout and perspective is top shelf stuff!

Without posting too many spoilers, the story is classic D&D material – and more modules based on this type of fair would be a welcome sight. It's basically a lost city in the jungle scenario … and with Chult being all the rage lately, the story seems almost timely. There's even a 'dragon' in the story, what's not to love?

Red Nails, however, is very much a product of it's time with a glimpse of racism and … well, Conan is pretty much a chauvinist; despite the fact that the heroine, Valeria, is a capable and strong female lead. It was a different time when stories like these, pulp fictions, were written and by no means am I a modern day apologist. I see the Hyborian age as a more primal reflection of today's world – for better or for worse. I personally like a non PC Conan … He's a Barbarian for chrissake! But I suppose YMMV … It's a good story and worth checking out if you come across it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Music to Game By - Track 9

Nine from Neverwinter - part nine

Cast of Characters:

  • Azun – A Moon Elf Archer hailing originally from Deepingdale, but fletching his arrows in Neverwinter for at least the past 30 years. He lead many of Neverwinter to safety during the Cataclysm of Mount Hotenow, and is regarded as a local folk hero.

  • Rungalor – A rough and tumble Barbarian Minotaur from parts unknown ...

  • Rollo Rutterkin – A Halfling Thief and long time companion of Rungalor.

  • Kirok – An Uthgardt Barbarian Shaman on a visionquest, serving as our guide.

  • Gizig – A Silver Dragonborn Warrior with official connections to Neverwinter's militia.

  • Hanzo – A Kozokuran Swordsman who journeyed to Neverwinter with Adrix of Highmoon.

  • Arcandius – A Thayvian Wizard who escaped his homeland with a mysterious tome of power.

  • Adrix – The Wandering Sage and Chronicler of this tale who brought this ragtag group of misfits together. He has traveled extensively as a Bardic Storyteller throughout The Realms, including The Unapproachable East, and is seeking to know more about The North.

  • The Storm Caller – A Calishite Gensia, powerful in the ways of Elemental Sorcery.

  • Kagan – A Half-Orc Fighting Man.

3rd of Mirtul, Year of the Ageless One; 447 North Reckoning

Take me to Phandalin NOW” Gundren griped from his makeshift bed, nearly shaking the rafters of Riedoth's cabin. Arcandius and Rollo did their best to make the Dwarf comfortable, but he wasn't having any of it.

Should my brother, Tharden , return from our mine with news, he'll seek me out in Phandalin – not here in gods know where in the middle of the woods!”

About that mine,” Rollo started; “You do realize our efforts to save your life go well beyond what you originally agreed to pay us to cart a bunch of mining supplies to a town in the middle of no where?”

Take this thieving Hin from beyond my sight!” Gundren bellowed.

Unfazed by the Dwarf's outburst, Rollo continued. “The way I see it, as do me mates, we took arrows from goblins, dallied with a Banshee, tussled with a dragon, fought with cultists, and took on a fortified keep to save your ungrateful arse.”

Gundren glared at the Halfling.

Rollo continued, “You owe us way more than what you agreed to pay us and we want 50% of the mines take.”

Gundren laughed so hard he fell into a fit of choking. He then considered the Halfling's words, as he noticed none of his rescuers objected to Rollo's claim. “Ten percent and no more.”

You must be joking,” said Rollo.

Ten percent and no more.”

The bargaining and haggling on Rollo's part was impressive, but the Shield Dwarf would not budge on his offering. Even without his beard he was as shrewd as any full bearded Dwarf in matters of gold. Finally, Rollo agreed to the sum, deciding that something was better than nothing.

4th of Mirtul, Year of the Ageless One; 447 North Reckoning

The next morn we were off to Phandalin. The morning air was crisp and the snow still lay heavy on the ground. Great herds of deer and elk were evident by their trails in the snow, but none were actually sighted. Riedoth's breakfast of biscuits and rabbit gravy weighed heavy on my stomach, though I can't speak for anyone else, as the journey was a quiet and uneventful one.

Upon arriving in town, we went straight to Gundren's home. It was a sizable house made of local and imported stone. The main room where we gathered was much like a mini hall with a great table in the center surrounded by chairs for guests, for clansmen, personal friends, and professional associates alike. With some help, Gundren took a seat at the head of the table and spoke.

There has been no word from my brother about our mine. I have here a map to the Wave Echo Cave, and you must go and take notice of our holdings. There may be foul play afoot since Tharden has not returned. I would go myself were I not so gravely injured. The task falls to you.” And with that, we were off again; trudging through snow into the wilderness … We should really invest in horses at some point soon …

Adventuring, such as we are doing, is seldom full of excitement. No one tells of the long uneventful journeys from the ground level. It's always trumpets blaring, to arms-to arms, swords clashing on shields and such. I suppose no one would set off on these expeditions if the truth were told. Meh … Just an old man's muttering through soggy boots.

It was twilight when the group came into view, approaching us all wrapped in bandages and shabby cloaks. A man rang a bell when he spied us, calling for us to clear the way. Several plague doctors could be seen, swinging sensors of incense as they strode along with the damned. The group bore a curious standard, a large cross was born on the back of one of the lepers, topped with a ram's skull and a filthy sheared pelt of wool. We gave the diseased a wide birth and asked them no questions as they went by.

Shortly thereafter, we made camp in a small clearing in the woods. Azun, who had little need for sleep took first watch. Arcandius stayed up later than the rest of us, studying his book of arcana. The only sound that repetitiously shook the camp was the damnable Minotaur's deep snoring. I thought to myself of Arcandius' studying, the secret knowledge he delighted in and felt a sense of longing of my own … Could I, a bard dedicated to the teachings of Oghma, that is to know lore and share it with others; could, or rather should, I heed Mystra's call?

The woman's scream in the night was as blood curdling as it was desperate. I bolted up straight away and Azun was already on the move in the direction of the sound. The party rose to arms … except Rungalor, who yawned, pawed at his blanket, and rolled over. Rollo kicked the Beastman and, leisurely, he brought himself out of slumber's grasp.

Kirok grabbed Rung's arm and pointed, “The scream came from this way, but I've not your eyes for the dark.” Azun was already out of sight.

Another scream pierced the night, just as desperate as the first; would we get to this lass before whatever assailed her did? … Only Savros knows, Tymora be with us ...

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