King for a Day : Last Update (for a while)

With less than 40 hours left, I’ve added a new reward level to the project.

As I am typing this, I just hit $3600 and now I need a good $4000 reward.

Nonetheless, here is the link. Thanks for all your support. I’ve already started outlining a second adventure, very different from this one.

King for a Day

The Haranshire Campaign : Part 15. Finale.

Fighting against three mind flayers and the fragmented memory of the god of discord, cloaked as the god of fertility and twilight, the party was trapped inside their own minds for the first half of the adventure tonight, never sure what was real and what was imagined.

The PCs found themselves replaying and reliving events and memories, with different outcomes.

Eventually, they found their way back to the very room they stood in before, standing off against the powerful mind control puppet masters.

The final battle was swift and vicious. The mind flayers, having used up their power trying to trap the PCs inside their own minds, were out of tricks. Faced with a brutal assault from the party, they stood little chance. Even utilizing new rules for die rolling and penalizing the party every time they rolled 1s, all three mind flayers fell. However, in the end, Ian alone stood against the fragmented memory of the god of discord.

Also out of tricks and without his power base of minions and puppet masters, the floating ball of energy was no match for Ian and quickly surrendered, returning to his realm.

The party walked back to the surface to find that spring was coming now (another two months below the earth?). A few loose ends were tied up and the PCs sat for one last drink at the Baron of Mutton… before walking off in their own separate ways.

The Haranshire Campaign : Part 14. Almost There…

If you intend to ever play King for a Day, you should not read this post.

Luther’s body lay lifeless on the cold stone tunnel. His tattered clothing, soaked in blood, looked as though wolves had torn at a rag doll to get to its contents. All around stood eight co-conspirators in his death, as Skye looked on helpless. Shock, terror, fear, derision. A hearty cocktail of painful emotions welled in the stomachs of those who had committed this horrible crime. Luther was dead. Ambushed. Completely surprised by an enemy he never knew he had.

Was it an act of rage? Defiance? Desperation? Or a horrible mistake?

Those responsible turned on each other, point fingers, shouting out at the atrocity they’d been part of, without condemning themselves in the act. Crandel was the most judgmental, calling for the others to bear their shame publicly. Ian countered with his own brand of cynicism and contempt. Skye, the protegee of the man now dead at their feet, turned inward and withdrew from these people her gut told her she could trust. How could this have happened?

Verner walked with her, consoling her, begging her to stay on so her family could be saved… so the Haranshire could be saved.

Stauff and Nadia stepped away, sharing in a warm embrace, seeing that the end might soon be near. This embrace turned to passion.

Crandel and Ian argued, engaging Vasya in discourse about what to do next, while Shepherd and Pearce (two other mercenaries) whispered to eat other, “Were we not supposed to kill him? I don’t understand.”

After some time in their respective confusion and/or consolations with one another, the team re-approached the situation, while Stauff wondered off (again) to scout ahead. His scouting did nothing to advance the cause, so I won’t mention much else about it. But while he was off doing that, the rest were trying to get into the stronghold of the followers of Dagon. Donning the bloody robes of Luther, Crandel entered the keep. The fishman guards let him and ran off to investigate whatever “attacked” him after Crandel gesticulated to something behind the statue — where Vasya and Nadia waited.

Fast-forward to the players re-joining one another again, they faced off against the cloaked figure in the center of the courtyard as mindless fishmen stood by and watched and the others were cut down by Vasya and Nadia in the caves.

The conflict was swift and painful. Whatever they were facing used powerful magic to twist and rend their minds, as they all faced off against it. One by one, they fell, until Ian alone drove it back down into the massive stone complex from whence it came. But not before he saw the horrifying visage of the tentacle-faced beast.

Jason (the player of Ian) was beside himself. He knew what I had just described (on a piece of paper passed to him), as he was the only one to see it. As everyone was coming to and preparing for what lie ahead, the discussion arose about Dagon, about what was going on here, about that servant, and there being two more of them. There was concern over how to beat these guys.

But they decided to push on. It was clear the fishmen were not a defensive force, but a distraction. They offered no resistance and passively performed whatever task they were given by their mind-control masters.

Entering the massive stone building that was clearly alien from all the other buildings, the party gave pursuit.

What follows is a series of chaotic scenes that challenged the psyche of all involved.

• A vertical tunnel that the PCs walked vertically on.

• A confrontation between Crandel and Ian, where Crandel cut the rope and tried to kidnap Skye… believing she was “mine” based on a vision he had months earlier.

• An endless underground sea.

• A spherical castle made from over a hundred different towers, balanced on an upside down minaret.

• A two-square mile scrawled image of the eye of Dagon.

• Three master servants hovering inside the center of the castle, worship a ball of bathing lightæ clearly not Dagon.

• An argument follow where the PCs were forced to attack one another, verbally, using the conflict resolution system.

• One by one the PCs were teleported all over the valley, until only Verner remained.

One session left…

History of the World Board Game : Game Diary… yes i’m a (history) nerd

If I have to explain why I love History of the World, we’ll be here all day. Suffice to say, it is my favorite board game of all time. So much so, that I will play a four-player or six-player game, by myself, with special rules for solo play and everything.

Not only that, I’m nerdie enough to keep a game diary of how things go down. Not just a game diary, either, but a sort of “roleplaying” interpretation of how these cultures might collide.

Not everytime. Just sometimes.

Like this time.

Epoch 1. Minoans, Sumerians, Indus, and Shang Dynasty.

The Sumerians quickly captured Zagros and the Levant, a typical turn one strategy, to gain them enough resources to build a monument to their King in the fabled city of Ur.

The Minoans spread to Palestine and the Shatts Plateau in North Africa, spreading far and wide instead of landing in Southern Europe.

The Indus Valley faced no opposition and took the Upper Indus and the Eastern Ghats (odd name for a region since the word means crematorium and wouldn’t be an important part of the region for many centuries). However, this gave them the resources they needed to also build a temple in their Capital of Mohenjo-daro to their great leader. (History doesn’t have a name for this guy because of the Nausharo excavation indicates no kings or leader names.)

Finally, the Shang Dynasty arrived. Their rise to power was uneventful. Ch’eng T’ang will most likely be forgotten.

Epoch 2. Assyrians, Vedic City States, Carthaginians, and Persians.

The Assyrians were quick to expand, annexing the Minoans (in Palestine) to their army and then conquering the Sumerian capital. Without Egypt to stop them, they expanded throughout the Nile Valley. A series of iconic statues were carved out of the mountainous rock to symbolize their great empire.

The Vedics arrived next, cooperating with the Indus who remained and building a tower to Janaka in Mithila. They also expanded into the Persian Desert, the Turanian Plain (in Eurasia), and even the Barem Flats in China. Without conflict with the Indus, they expanded rapidly.

The Carthaginians expelled the Minoans from the Shatts Plateau, which reduced them down to just the island of Crete. They also expanded into the Iberian peninsula, Southern Apennines, and the rest of North Africa. Western Anatolia was also vacant, so a colony of Carthaginians went there as well, in an attempt to harangue the future Romans. One minor skirmish with the Assyrians ended without any land changing hands, but otherwise, their reign was peaceful.

Finally, the Persians arrived. And there reign was the bloodiest yet. Fighting the Indus, Vedics, and Assyrians on three different fronts, the Persians took land from all their enemies before cutting a swath across Northernmost India to reach the Mekong Delta. I think history will show that Darius the Great has earned his triumphal pillar in Persepolis and paved the way for Islam to travel across South East Asia.

Epoch 3. Celts, Maurya, Han Dynasty, and Sassinids.

The Celts were the first to arrive out of Central Europe, descending into all of the Southern European regions that the Carthaginians hadn’t taken. It was a bloodless reign, ending in prosperity for both kingdoms.

The same could not be said for the Maurya, who attempted several times to take the Eastern Ghats from the Indus Valley (who still remained in the region). The turned their attention instead to the the southernmost edge of China and most of Southeast Asia.

The Han Dynasty drove the Shang Dynasty completely from China, along with the newly arrived Maurya. This finally united all of China under one flag, sharing a single piece of land with the peaceful Vedics who remained in the south. In honor of his conquest, Wu-Ti had a massive palace erected in his own honor. What a guy.

The Mayans appeared in Central America, to no great aplomb. But it would be the Sassinids who would make the greatest impact of the epoch. Driving the Persians completely from the Middle East, including a single outpost of Carthaginians in Anatolia, all of the Middle East was finally united under a single flag. And while some Assyrians remained, the Sumerians were gone. Forever. A ziggurat was built in Zagros to honor Ardashir’s sacrifice to the empire.

Epoch 4. Guptas, Huns, Byzantines, T’ang Dynasty.

The Guptas arrival was disastrous for the Indus Valley, which was finally wiped out, lasting nearly 3,000 years. It was also disastrous for the forces of Southeast Asia and China, as the Guptas quickly allied themselves with the Sassinids ruling over the Middle East. Now, a nearly continuous Empire stretched from Cairo to the Bay of Bengal. To celebrate this achievement, the people of the Eastern Deccan built an obelisk in honor of their leader Chandragupta.

The Huns appearance in the Western Steppe would prove the Middle East’s biggest threat, however. As Attila struck down in the Eastern Antolia, breaking the Sassinid defenses and claiming two major cities and monuments. Upon his death, the Huns buried Attilla in a gold coffin in Zagros, marking the place where the Sassinid Empire (which lasted nearly 200 years) was split in two.

Byzantium would not fair well on Justinian. Unable to drive the Huns or Sassinids from his neighboring lands, his only claim would be to finally drive the Minoans off of Crete and unite all of Southern Europe under a combined Empire of Celts, Carthaginians, and Byzantines. However, without the resources to do it, his legacy would never create the monuments of honor that future generations of Southern Europe would come to know.

The T’ang Dynasty displayed a conquest that one would have to see to believe. After a bloodless concession of power from the Shang Dynasty to the Han Dynasty, the Empire was able to expand westward across northern Eurasia, all the way to the Isle of the Britons, conquering more land in Northern Europe than any Empire before it. To honor the achievement, the people erected four massive Fu Lion statues, one each to face in each direction of their new Empire.

Epoch 5. Franks, Chola, Seljuk Turks, and Mongols.

The Franks did the unthinkable, allying with the T’ang Dynasty and unifying all of Northern Europe, engaging in only one fight with the Huns, to secure Prussia. The Germanic Tribes celebrated with a pagan feast, some sacrifice, and the consecration of a Bronze idol in the heart of Central Europe.

The Chola (forefathers of the Tamil) reign would not be as eventful. As Rajaraja attempted to work with his neighbors, he moved to secure a foothold in Southeast Asia instead. Almost securing the entire region, he was unable to secure Thailand, instead only driving the remnants of the Han Dynasty that remained in the region. His reign, while insignificant, still earned him a shrine in the Eastern Ghats.

Seljuk Turks. The nomadic, disparate forces of Zengi would prove more devastating to the Sassinid Empire than any other. Crushing no more than four cities and securing five monuments throughout the Middle East, the Seljuk Turks all but pushed their enemies to the sea. Their bloody trail of destruction secured a new Empire in the region and assured that the Sassinids would never again be whole.

Mongols. The fifth epoch would see very little civilization, but rather three barbaric hordes, the last of which was the most lethal. The Mongols, feared more than any army in the history of the world, would not disappoint. Conquering the Frank capital, crushing the Celt control of Southern Europe, storming into the Middle East, and even capturing significant parts of India weren’t enough. The Mongols succeeded in uniting the remaining Huns and forging a single Empire covering all of Eurasia. Combined with the appearance of Fujiwara and his alliance with them, Genghis Khan ruled more of the world than anyone. In Korea, which he also conquered from the Han Dynasty, a bronze and gold statue was erected to honor Temujin’s reign.

Epoch 6. Ming Dynasty, Portugal, Spain, and Mughals.

Ming Dynasty. The sixth epoch saw the end of barbaric hordes and the age of colonization and civilization. Starting with the Ming Dynasty  in the last 14th century, the landscape was about to change. Although unable to drive the T’ang Dynasty out for good, the Han Dynasty was now completely gone and Hung-Wu would unify all of Southeast Asia before having a temple and holiday named after him.

Portugal. In typical Portuguese fashion, the nation was the first around the world, colonizing part of North America, South America, and Africa. Building two massive monuments patterned after the hemispheres of the earth, the nation of Portugal left its mark on the world in a big way.

Spain. Spain followed suit, colonizing the western side of South America, conquering Central Europe, part of North American, and finally grabbing Madagascar. The were unable to take the Portuguese Capital, however, and therefore only built a single Basilica in Madrid.

The Mughals ran over what remained of anyone else in India, except for one final Mongol holdout in the Kush. They did success in building a massive library in Delhi.

Epoch 7. Netherlands, Britain, United States, and Germany.

Netherlands. Leaders from the Hague sent ambassadors all over the world and even sent soldiers into Central Europe, to drive out the Spanish.

Britain. Eager to unite the whole of Northern Europe, Britain did more than that. After conquering the whole of Europe, they sailed for China and with the aid of the last remaining T’ang Dynasty governors, united all of China under the flag of England.

And while the United States would do very little (but land on New Guinea), Germany would conquer all of North Africa, Ethiopia, the West Indies, and complete their reign by building a massive embassy in Berlin to invite all the other nations to revel in their victory over all the nations.

Purple would end up winning by two points.

why the rpg business model fails…

Over here at youtube, you can see the “Future of D&D” Panel. At minute 7:45 of the video, Mearls says the thing that makes me cringe. And makes me say, “RPGs are a flawed business model.”

Video Link

And Mearls, if you’re watching buddy, I love you. But I’m not attacking you. I’m targeting the group-think that postulates these notions…. and because I’ve never heard anyone in the industry say what I’m about to say, I’ve got to get it off my chest.

Mike says, “The GM is more important than the designer.”

Yes. Correct. This is 100% correct when you look at the experience of the “game” vs. the experience of the product. It’s conversely, the reason I hate more video games.

But it’s also the unstable hinge upon with all editions of D&D rest after 1st edition.

Let me provide an analogy if I may:

A Mechanic buys a toolbox from Snap-On Tools (you probably go to Sears, but be goes to Snap-On). He buys a wrench and a ratchet and a hammer and vice-grips and a screwdriver. He, the mechanic, is a sapient tool user, so he uses these tools until the day they break. Just like a GM who runs his favorite edition of something, until he doesn’t work for him any longer. The Mechanic is more important than the tool. This means he only needs to buy a very good tool once. He might own duplicates of the same screwdriver or wrench or whatever, but he can only really use one at a time. And he isn’t expected to buy expansions to his tools.

To make matters worse, if the mechanic is bad at his job, he loses customers, just like a GM who loses players. However…

… and this is where the RPG business model fails…

…the tool company does not lose money because the mechanic screwed up your tune up.

But a RPG company’s income is based upon the need that the GM brings value to the brand. Their entire connection to the hobby is contingent on a GM being good at his job. If the GM is an overbearing control freak, chances are he is not inspiring a new generation of players.

And I don’t even know if game companies see this dependence? Do designers who are good GMs just assume that their game will always attract a new crop of players?

The entire philosophy that requires good demo sessions, run by quality GMs, who may in turn sell one $40 RPG after a two-hour long demo… It’s just… what the hell?

Mearls goes on to explain it’s how the GM expresses the world that matters — in fact a good GM can pave over the problems with the design… essentially just selling a “baseline” to me.

So, Mike and WOTC… you’re selling me “modularity.” Well, I hate to tell you this, but you’ve sold me FOUR DIFFERENT editions of modularity, which have inspired 5000 derivative games (most importantly successful games like OSRIC and C&C). Why do I need another edition?

And how are the sales of a GM-powered product that requires no expansion expanded into the expansion-product market driven by expansion books inherent in the second half of the business model? Ouch. I hurt my keyboard.

Tempering Your Voice

[A little gamer psychology today. Sorry.]

I game every two weeks in a World of Darkness LARP. I believe I’ve mentioned that before, but if I haven’t, here it is.

Yea.

There are about 30 people in the LARP. We have a facebook page to keep track of the group and everything.

I am not the most welcome face in the group for a number of reasons. I feel like a pariah, almost. Although I do have a few friends in the game, I really only roleplay with one storyteller and two other people 95% of the time.

That’s just what it is.

Oddly, I feel like a majority of my diaspora stems from the fact that many people play characters I cannot wrap my head around and/or play in stories I am not interested in and/or generally clash with me. Conversely, I tend to read gamers pretty well and I can see through all of the “issues” they bring to game. My buddy Mike is very good at showing patience when necessary toward these kinds of players. I am not. So rather than rub people the wrong way, I just avoid them. I’m really not a nice guy.

But over the course of the last year, I’ve noticed an alarming trend of disrespect among other people in the group toward one another (not toward me).

Which brings me to my belabored point.

We have a lot of players under the age of 30. Most of them have never done any other kind of gaming. Some of them say things that (out of context) trigger hostile rebukes from other players. Many of these people have more friends in game than I do. Rather than temper their voice of their response to seemingly innocuous (albeit inane) commentary, I sometimes watch in horror as people talk very very inappropriately to one another.

I’ve been to a lot of game conventions in my life. Heard people say awful, hateful things to one another. Racial slurs, brainless misogyny, and outright misinformed idiocy. In that arena, it’s so easy to ignore. People will be stupid and engendering debate with someone who thinks a game convention is the appropriate place to debate that Jews secretly control the World Bank is a waste of time and energy. I’m at a game convention after all.

And these are people I have zero respect for. I could easily tear him/her a new ass and never feel an ounce of remorse, so I move on.

Somehow. In the setting of a “Pollyanna” game environment like an all WoD game world, I find it troubling that people with this much background and connectivity to one another fail to show the least bit of awareness and understanding to (in their own head) say, “Okay. Joe is just being Joe. I need to temper my response to not sound so loud, abrasive, and antagonistic.”

I don’t have a final point, sadly. This is the first time since high school I’ve seen this kind of behavior amongst a regular group of gamers. And since I’m the guy no one likes and I never yell at anyone, I have to wonder…

…what am I doing wrong?

Feel free to post, if you’ve witnessed something similar in your gaming travels.