Life goes on

It has been an interesting few weeks, that has thrown a couple of new challenges my way.

It started when government Covid restrictions relaxed enough permit large outdoor events, which meant that I could go re-enacting again.  The first thing I was able to attend was Military Odyssey in Detling, a multi-period military extravaganza, although WWII is very heavily represented.  I went down with the Wimborne Militia, to represent an opposition for the Pirates – so lots of cannons, musketry and sword fighting, all backed up by a Living History camp that lets us talk about the history of the time.  That was quickly followed by another event at Mount Edgcumbe, for a living history camp, with beautiful views across the River Tamar towards Plymouth and the sea. 

It is only in the last few years that I have moved away from re-enacting battles, towards the living history side (age catches up with all of us), but I have never really established a LH role for myself.  I have been re-enacting for a long time, I do a long of research –  but I am a bit of a butterfly, and I jump from subject to subject, which means I have a lot of interesting knowledge, but I am not a specialist or expert in any of them.  Certainly not knowledgeable enough to set out a stall and demonstrate.  However, I have worked out that I can play a ‘man in a pub’, with historic pub games, beer and conversation.  I have quite a lot of experience of the ‘Man in a Pub’ role, so I should be OK with that.  Sounds daft, but it will be a serious vehicle to get people to sit down and talk to me.

But then we (The Wimborne Militia) got invited to take part in a Games Convention, in February next year.  Apparently, they often invite Living History displays to set up inside the convention.  Possibly for LARPers, possible for the Cosplayers – possibly just to fill up space.  Who knows, but having been to a few conventions, I am used to seeing a wild and wacky range of stands, stalls and displays.

Long story, short –  it made me think about writing a board game.  So I did – well I have a prototype, anyway.  It might be rubbish, but I won’t know until people play it.  Militia Vs Pirates (Yeah, it needs a catchier name) that features …

Team and individual play. Twin boards (slightly different) one for Militia, one for Pirates. D6 to move (I guess about 20 rounds per game) collect coins as you go, with penalties and rewards on board squares. Cards to boost your game and disrupt the opponents. Game finishes as first player hits Home – but winner is the one with most coins.

…  Not one for serious board gamers, but while it has randomizers (Dice & Cards) there is plenty of room for strategies and tactics – and it could well be fun for half-an-hour.   Which left me printing off game boards and card fronts –  then sticking them to a second hand scrabble board, and a deck of card.  *grin*  I enjoyed the process, and we have something for the gamers to ‘play test for me’  when we are at the convention.  And, let’s face it, if it is any good, I will be in the right place to find a small games company to sell it to.

To make it worse, everything seems to have slowed right down.  Stolen Lands is slow, the games I play in are slow – one is so slow that I think it may well be dead in the water.  So I applied to join a new game.  It is a long story, but I finished up getting accepted into a game that I didn’t really apply for – which just happens to be set in a part of Varisa that I know well and enjoyed playing in.  Just as importantly, I had a ‘interesting’ character who was based in the region, and I thought it would be interesting to write up one of his children, and explore that background in a bit more detail.

Gagak helped settle a village, Skids Landing, on the very edges of the Sandpoint hinterland – but that grew when I used the village (later) as a base for some adventures that I DMed for that playing group.  So the first thing was to roll the village back to something that doesn’t impinge on the new DMs game.  So I finished up with a village based on Dwarf quarrymen, lumberjacks and hunter trappers – and a suitable rough and ready place it is too.  Just right for a semi-civilized barbarian and his three wives.

Then it was onto family life – how d one half-orc barbarian, three wives and seven children get on with each other?  And what do you get when the kids grow up?

Find out at Raven’s wiki page.

Playing Styles

Recently, I have been thinking about playing styles and the way players approach games. While it is something I have been aware of for quite a while, game groups normally sort themselves out reasonably quickly. For example, I run a game for a table-top group who come together once a year for a weekend of gaming. For the first few years, we invited a lot of my RPG friends. Over time, it settled into a group of players who all trusted each other and who all enjoyed a bit of IC banter. Now the same people come back year after year – and we all have a good time. It was a self-selecting game group. The same sort of thing has happened in all TT groups that I have played in – sooner or later a regular group of players develops – who are right for that game, that group, the GM etc.

On RPoL, which is a text based playing environment, the same sort of thing happens. Players who don’t fit with the GM style move on, new players come in – and sooner or later a fairly homogenous group forms. It can often be a slower, but sooner or later you get a group of PCs who can live with each other and their playing styles.

However, the game I run at the moment is a bit different. Rather than being a standard small group game, I decided to run a large multi-group game. I had played in a couple of similar games, and I had enjoyed them – so I thought why not? It has been great fun – an awful lot of work, but I have enjoyed it immensely.

To make it more complicated, the game has three different aspects that I try to merge into one semi-coherent setting.

  • I normally have about fifteen players split into three adventuring groups – at the moment we have two groups (to cope with lock-down related absences) although we have, occasionally, had four adventuring groups in the past.
  • The game also uses a home-brew set of kingdom building and campaign rules, which have grown and developed as the game has progressed.
  • Fuzzy Threads are ‘out of time’ role-playing adventures. They aren’t there for combat, and rarely require any dice rolls, but they are a place for players to Role Play their characters, and to interact beyond their adventuring groups. Characters can be in these RP thread at the same time they are out slaying monsters (etc) with their adventuring party.

Now you can see why I say it is a lot of work. However, there is no requirement for any player, or character, to take part in any aspect of the game. We even have a couple of characters who don’t go adventuring, but hang around in bars looking for RP opportunities.

It has really highlighted the different ‘styles’ of the players. Some are writers, some are gamers, some are rules people – although, in reality, they all have some element of each aspect in their playing style. Before I look at it further, I want to say that I value all of my players – they all bring something different to (what I think) is a brilliant game, and they represent the tapestry of life really well. Without them, and their different styles, my game would not work 🙂


Everyone who plays on RPoL is a writer, those who aren’t drop off of the platform fairly quickly – and while I get a few non-writers, they tend to leave the game quite quickly. However, there are some players who are serious writers, who could probably be writing good fiction, and I have been privileged to play with quite a few over the twenty years, or so, that I have been playing on RPoL and PBW. They tend to develop a strong backstory for their character, and then keep building and exploring the character throughout the game. They spend a lot of time role-playing with other characters and invest a lot of time in their characters and their writing. Each of their characters has their own story, and it is a major focus is a writer’s playing style. I am in awe of them, and thoroughly enjoy their interaction – but I can’t maintain the intensity and effort they put into their RP. And I say that as a published author (of text books), someone who has written poetry for pleasure – and someone who writes stuff like this for the hell of it.

For a world build, like me, it is great. I get to build and work on the parts of my game world that the character needs for their story, and my game world has benefited immensely from the co-operative work that I have done to help flesh out Character backgrounds, and help lay future plans.

In game management terms, it can be an issue when characterization and story building clashes with key parts of the game’s story line – but that can normally be managed OK.  Another occasional issue is when long RP posts dominate more general threads, but I tend to deal with that problem by adding extra threads for people to play in.


Again, everyone is a gamer of some sort, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be playing in an RPG game at all, however, there are some players who play the adventure threads more innovatively than others. And that is how it should be – a party where every player tries to set group tactics, solve puzzles or coming up with inventive ways to use their abilities, can kill a game very quickly. There has to be concerted and group action for a party to succeed in adventure threads, it just plays straight into the DM’s hands – and then I have to be careful not to set up a Total Party Kill.

That said, gamers are important and it would be boring if everything went according to plan and everything was easy for the players. Games like that tend to die off very quickly and, personally, I enjoy it when a group comes up with something I haven’t planned for. Sometimes, it means the party get a quick win, other times it means that I have to rework parts of the adventure, other times it means that a party member might die (or get very close to it) –the game becomes a less predictable and more fun.

As a player, I have always felt that the best encounters are the ones that a party just ‘wins’. As a DM, the best encounter I can run is one where the party just wins, and comes out depleted and surprised. In table-top games, I like to leave a party on single figure hit points (between them!) with next to no spells (etc) left. On RPoL and similar sites that is more difficult to achieve, but it is good to leave a character or two in negative HP, when they weren’t expecting it. It adds to the jeopardy of the whole game, makes it interesting for everyone, and justifies the ‘loot’ that help the characters grow. It doesn’t need to happen all the time – but that risk has to be there to keep adventures enjoyable and ‘adventurous’.

In game management terms, I try to split the gamers between groups. I try to put a leader, a puzzle solver and a maverick into each group – and hope that it helps keep the group working together. It has worked so far 🙂

Rules People

Again, we all need a basic grasp of the rules to be able to play the game, but some people love to delve into the rules. In the past they might have been called min-maxers, now the favoured term seems to be optimizers, it doesn’t matter – we have all done it at some point of our game life. If you haven’t done it yet, you almost certainly will do at some stage in your playing life 🙂

I can remember constructing tables to see how I could get the greatest weapon damage for a druid under the 1st ed D&D rules – and then expanding it to show that, at low levels, a druid could do more damage that a paladin. Even now, I have been known to go hunting through the skills and feats lists to find something that will let my character do what I want them to. It is all part of the same thing.

And it is important, because it keeps the game growing. I have learned a lot about the pathfinder rules in the last few years, just because people have asked to take skills, feats or combinations that I wasn’t aware of.  I have certainly incorporated some things I have learned into my NPCs and game structures. My game world is better for that.  It also keeps other players on their toes … ‘How did she do that?’ or ‘How can I learn to do something like that’. It encourages players to think and to look at the rules in a bit more depth.

As for my in-house Campaign Rules, they have grown (and improved) significantly. Those rules have been tested and used to the limit, and every time that has happened, they have evolved. In some cases it has come from general questions such as, ‘can I run a magic shop’ or ‘how can my shop expand’. Both of those questions led to an expansion of the business types offered within the rules, and eventually to a simplification of the system used to manage businesses. At other times, players have found ways of using the rules that I never realized were possible. Sometimes that has led to a rewrite (although never to the disadvantage of the player who found the loop-hole) other times it has led to additions or expansions.

I manage that, in game, by disallowing classes, races and feats – there are two reasons for this. The first is a bit selfish, my game world (even though it is based on material published by Paizo) reflects my ideas of a fantasy world.  It is those ideas that underpinned the game environment that I fashioned, and form part of my ‘world vision’. I want to keep enjoying my game and its world – so I tweak it to my tastes.

The second reason has to do with game-play balance. Not every player is a rules’ guru, some even have a limited understanding of the basic rules and occasionally need help with which die they are supposed to roll – but they still add to the game. So I disallow feats that I think would allow a character to dominate and adventuring party and hog all the action.  There is nothing worse, as a player, than having to sit back and watch the action because you know your character isn’t in the same power league. A well optimized character will work out as significantly more powerful than an unoptimised character (that is the whole point)  but when the party also includes poorly designed characters, the difference is immense. And every character needs to feel that they can be involved in the adventure situation – or else what is the point of going adventuring?


My game benefits from all three of those attributes and most players have all three of them – but in different ratios. My job is to try and balance them, so that no one group of players dominates the whole game at the expense of the other players. So far it has worked out quite well. I have seen some brilliant writing and Role Play. I have been pleasantly surprised by the way parties use tactics – and am often kept on my toes – and I have also learned a lot about the rules, both Paizo’s and my own house rules.

As I said, for me, it is a brilliant game – well worth the angst that comes with managing some on the (minor) excesses. And, let’s face it, while players and their enjoyment is important, we are all a bit selfish. If I didn’t enjoy the playing the game, it wouldn’t exist.

Now, to be fair, I suppose I should tell you where I fit in those categories 🙂

I would love to be a really good writer – but I am not. I am not bad, I get quite a bit of RP in and I write some decent posts.  I rate me as average. It is the same on the gamer scale. I come up with a few good ideas and manage to surprise DMs occasionally – but again, I rate me as fairly average. Rules? I love rules. I came to this game back in the very early 80s when a flat mate left the PHB and DMG (AD&D I) out on the settee when he went to bed. I read both of them from cover to cover in one hit (Yes, I am a quick reader), and never did get to sleep that night. BUT, I can never quite see the right ways to take advantage of them. So again average.

That doesn’t worry me in the slightest, and in real life I am a jack-of-all trades. I even had fairly successful careers in both teaching and IT by having lots of ‘average’ skills. Lots of people could do things better than me – but I did a better job, overall. The moral of this story is – take what skills you have, and use them well. 🙂

Nothing much to add

It has been a strange few weeks since I last posted, and I have had a lot of things on my mind. 

  • Lockdown has been running for (what seems like) ages, and I am getting really frustrated now.  I have been working from home, using MS Teams, to support apprentices through their course.  They have been coming and going at different times – and I have not been able to establish a sensible structure to the week.
  • I set fire to a camping cooker when we went for a picnic down by the beach.  I live close to the sea and it was permissible under our lockdown rules.  No damage done, but it was within a few feet of the   ‘bus’.  More importantly, it meant we had to go home to cook our dinner 🙁  And that just added to the frustration.
  • I discovered that I have developed hay fever.  In the past I only reacted to heavily scented flowers and rape fields.  Now it seems my nose itches and I start sneezing, every time the pollen count is high.  That is going to be annoying.
  • On top of that I celebrated my wedding anniversary (17th) and my birthday (65th).  We were supposed to be going to Venice –  but that has all gone by the wayside.
  • The Wiki software I use for my games site got upgraded.  Unfortunately many add-ons and extensions didn’t.  That messed up some formatting I had got and started throwing warnings all over the place.  That was frustrating, took time to understand and it still isn’t working properly – although it is much better than it was.

My RPoL game has been in a funny stage as well.  Players are still MIA, some (I am sure) due to the lockdown and I have had to reorganize the adventuring groups.  So we have dropped from three groups to two, reorganized the parties and left the missing characters in a holding group.  If they come back, I can ease them back into the game.  If they haven’t returned in a few weeks, I’ll start recruiting again.

That has coincided with a political phase of the game, the discontent that has permeated southern Brevoy for years is coming to a head, and it looks like a Civil War is brewing.  So I have been dropping clues to what has been happening.  Some subtle, some much less so – but I  most characters are aware, and some are staring to take sides already.  One day soon they will have to make a decision about which  side their rapidly growing colony should support – and I am looking forward to the RP that should come with it.

At the same time we are coming up to the start of a new Campaign Round.  I have been spending a lot of time reporting back to players about the health and status of the holdings.  Because Characters have joined at different times, they have different levels of holding.  We have a massively wealthy merchant, a PC Bishop who has built a Cathedral at the heart of the new settlement, a hotel magnate – and that runs right down to a couple of characters who are able to build their first small shop / shrine etc this round. 

Players have now started running their development plans passed me.  That is great, I can tell them when they have misread the rules and suggest options that they might not have thought of – and it helps me spot any inconsistencies in the rules.  Most recently, questions from a couple of players has encouraged me to re-think the Merchant House rules – and that has led to a slightly different approach where merchants control both supply of goods and try to control the sales in their own city.  Ironically, it doesn’t change the actual rules all that much –  but it does entail a complete rewrite as I split retail and transportation businesses into two different business groups.  Which, of course, has a knock on effect on all the other business pages.

And all of that right in the middle of an overall restructure of the Campaign Rules – which then got put on the back burner again

And that is my excuse for not writing anything new ….

A quiet month …

Wow.  That has been an interesting month.  A cold followed by a bit of a cough (no, not coronavirus) slowed me down, and a whole series of other bits and pieces as well.  My wife is preparing to start a new job, so we have had all the up and downs of interviews and preparing to leave a long-term employer.  The government have added yet more paperwork for the training providers I work for (Part Time) and that inevitably gets pushed down to me.  However, this is just  …

There was a rant here that I took out  J  But you get the idea!

It has, on the other hand, been a quiet month on the game front.  I spent a few days thinking about building the Rules Website that I spoke about in the last post.  I even went as far as creating a game and a Wiki at RPoL so that I could think about structures and start putting some content together.  It didn’t go well, as I soon realized that I wanted to do a number of different things.

  1. I want to include the rules changes I have used (or have considered) to make my D20 games work faster, or more easily, on RPoL.  Anything that delays a player posting holds the game up.  Effects that run for more than one round, may need tracking over weeks of real time.  There are lots of little tweaks.  (Note:  I run slow games with a once-a-week post rate)
  2. I want the site to only contain ‘Core’ rules, but I also want it to be usable for both Pathfinder and 3.0/3.5e.  So whose core rules?  I suspect that this is not an insurmountable problem – but it is one that I haven’t thought about yet.
  3. I started putting my own tweaks in.  For example, Gnomes haven’t had a strong ‘persona’ across the game’s history, and every new version /publisher that comes along chops them about a bit more. Because of this, Gnomes don’t really feature in games worlds I write, and I found myself writing an article justifying why I wasn’t going to include them as a PC class on the website.  Now this is something I do want to do for my games world site –  but I don’t know that I want to mix the two up together.

So that project has been put on hold and sent back for more consideration.  One day I will learn to separate the three things – either that or I’ll just publish a whole new games system with an integral world …   Well, a man can dream :}

However, there have been some real positives this month.  We recently finished the Kingdom Round and I promised the players that I would start up a couple of pure RP threads for them to play around in.  These are ‘Fuzzy Time’ threads that run alongside the adventure threads.  The PCs are still out adventuring, slaying monsters and exploring deserted strongholds – but they are also doing social / RP things that are outside the normal timeline.  I monitor ‘Fuzzy’ threads, to make sure that they  don’t cross over with the ‘Adventure’ threads, but the players, generally, understand the concept and I don’t have to interfere all that often.  It has  worked really well as a way of letting players develop their characters, without interrupting play.

One thread took a group of  PCs into Restov, where they have been meeting up with their families, shopping and politicking.  That particular group gave been exploring their backstories and (in some cases) forging strong links and relationships between their characters.  A second group took a boat south to explore Jovvox  (Yeah!  Gnomes.  But this is Paizo’s game world, rather than mine) and Mivon.  So far we have got to Jovvox, and we are about to go and have dinner with a gnome merchant.  There are others who have been in the woods trying to catch a thylacine.   They have all been great fun to watch, and they have given me (and the players) an opportunity to understand the characters better.  And the ‘Boat Trip’ thread gave me the opportunity to wheel out one of my favourite NPCs – Helga! 

Helga first appeared in my Kingmaker table-top game, when I needed someone who knew their way about boats and Mivon.  As she was going to be a recurring NPC, she had to have a character sheet of her own, and that meant I could be a  bit more flexible within my own NPC guidelines.  Helga is a Half-Orc commoner, who grew up on the Mivon dockside and finished up working on the docks and as a sailor in The River Kingdoms.  And as everyone knows, River Kingdom sailors are not far short of Pirates ….

Helga is now L5 and has some nice gear for a commoner – including hand-me-down magic items passed on to her from her previous employers. She has a very low charisma, negative mods for Diplomacy and Bluff –  but a decent Intimidate modifier.  As a Ship’s captain she barks at her crew, threatens them –  but is always there alongside them with her Masterwork greataxe (or her Brass Knuckles) if ever they are in trouble.  Her Str and Dex  are high enough that she doesn’t get pushed around by the everyday folks of a city.

But she is great fun to play.  She is never very diplomatic in what she says to her bosses, and tends to tell things as she sees them, rather than prettying them up.  And then she shouts at her crew, and (potentially) anyone else she  is lower down the pecking order than she is.

I like playing Helga!


Those people who play with me soon realise that I have an obsession about the rules.   Not in the sense that I am a stickler for the published rules, or that I know all of them inside out and have every single rule book going.  Pretty much the opposite, in fact.  I like games where the rules are easy to use and fade into the background –  rules give the game structure, but the game should be dominated by role-playing and storytelling, rather than the minutiae of rules and rolls.  That is one of the reasons why D20 works for me as a rule set – it a nice straightforward mechanic (Roll a D20 and add your modifier) that allows a Player to Role Play the event – especially in an online environment.  For example …

“George ducks down behind his shield as he advances on the dragon, hoping it will provide some protection from the monster’s fiery breath.  Then, peeking around the side, he swings his longsword towards the dragon’s neck. ”  (OOC rolled D20+11 to hit –  total 13.  Whoops.)


“Brianna teeters on the edge of the ledge as she tries to dodge the axe, then a loose stone dislodges under her foot and for a moment she hangs there staring at the ground thirty feet below her ….  Then, somehow, she manages to throw herself backwards, flicking herself onto the roof of the tower again.   Relief floods through her, until she turns to see the half-orc raising his axe again.”  (OOC Reflex save.  Rolled d20 +14 = 34! Yay!)

Note for people that DM me:  I wish I could remember to write like that all the time.  😛  Few people write like that every time –  but I love it when I do see a post like that.  It works particularly well when players know what they need to roll to succeed – as they often do in the later stages of a battle.

However, the rules also define the basic style and structure of the game.   Chivalry and Sorcery has a very different feel to Runequest, which feels different to GURPs or D&D.  And, much as I love both systems, I can’t imagine playing a medieval fantasy game using the rules that came with the original Marvel Superheroes or Classic Traveller.

And that is how I finished up playing Dungeons and Dragons based games, rather than other systems.  I quite liked the feel of the original rules, Tolkienesqe, mythological overtones – and the Monk thrown in for good measure!  Flexible enough you could build your own worlds and cultures with it if you wanted to.  There were lots of different settings, of course, but none of the guys I played with really invested in any of them –  so we played very much within the original rules and maintained the feel of the game.  Actually, I probably have a few hundred pounds worth of AD&D books – but they were always addition reference books, something to browse through at leisure and pick out one or two bits to help personalise a character.

Then came the 3rd ed – it took me a while to move to it –  but I did eventually, thanks to playing Neverwinter Nights of the computer.  I am still slightly uncomfortable with a character generation system that encourages complex planned builds – IMO carefully constructed builds might make for very powerful characters, but they often lead to one dimensional, one trick ponies.  I like good flexible characters who engage with my world and react to the world.  I would rather DM players who are prepared to build their characters on the experiences they get in game, rather than to a plan.

And the internet makes it worse.  With easy access to on-line rules sites every single rule that is published becomes available to everyone.  Every player can discuss builds with other like-minded players around the world. And some build discussions on the Paizo forums (I have switched to Pathfinder) are incredibly complex and convoluted.  Mining skills and feats across a range of publications and settings, skilled builders can build characters that are significantly more powerful than those that anyone else plays.  Does that matter, I hear you ask.  And the answer is yes – because as a GM I have to manage combats and scenarios that suit all the characters and let all of them play a significant role.  If the party has one Uber Character that is significantly more powerful that everyone else – it gets boring quite fast.  Well it gets boring fast for everyone else but the player of the Uber Character.

OK.  Rant over.  I have nothing against that style of play –  but it doesn’t suit my style of GMing, so not in my games  🙂  However, it does bring me to the point of this blog entry.

My ‘Stolen Lands’ game on RPoL has been running for about three years and has between 12 and 18 players at any one time.  As always there is quite a high level of attrition.  Players come along play for a while and decide the game isn’t for them (that’s cool.  I do the same thing), real-life happens, and they take a break, or move on to other things.  That is life for a long-running game on a play by post site.  But it means that I get have to keep going through the   “No, you can’t have that” process quite regularly.  Ah, and yes – there is lots of guidance about what people can, and can’t, use.  But they miss stuff, I miss stuff and then  … 

So I have been thinking about making a D20 reference website that just covers the rules I allow.  That then made me wonder how I could make the rules better for RPoL style play.  For example, initiative works differently in Online Play – combats take long enough as it is, but if everyone waited for their initiative before they posted, they would be even longer.  In a one post a week game –  effects that are calculated over a number of rounds can be a pain –  poison, disease, alchemist’s fire, and I am sure there are others.  What if we could pull those effects into one round?  That would certainly make it easier and less intrusive.  I am certain there are others as well …

I wonder ….

Neverwinter Nights

I have never been much of a computer gamer, but I have played a few. The first one was nearly 50 years ago – it was a co-op Star Trek simulator, that needed a few million pounds worth of mainframe to run – and provided overnight entertainment during the quiet parts of the graveyard shift. After that very little appealed to me until Age of Empires – another game that could be played cooperatively. There were a couple of others, but the next big one was Neverwinter Nights. Not so much the game itself, but the other stuff that came with it.

It was the first part of the game, that you could play cooperatively, that got me hooked. My wife and I played it together. Later, Co-op play was phased out of the official game in favour of ‘personalised immersive cut-scenes’ – and I don’t think I ever finished the official game. However, it came with a tool set that allowed you to start building your own worlds – and that fascinated me. Computing and D&D all together in one package – what more could a man want?

Within a few months I was taken on as a DM/Builder by a game called Champions of Vydor, owned by a guy called Prince Wally – OK that wasn’t his proper name, but it was the name he went by. Like all the Developers I wrote some adventure areas, and even roped in my wife and son to work with me. Together we built the graveyard/cemetery in Vydor as a cooperative project. I think my son was about 14 at the time – and I taught him the basics of scripting using the conversation editor and Aurora tool-set that comes with NWN.

We also built, and ran, a Dwarves Guild as a family. All Dwarves were welcome and once every couple of weeks we would go out on a guild run. Rather than a small party of around about the same level – every player on the server was invited to bring a Dwarf character (of any level) and we would go blatt things the Dwarven way. There were lots of Dwarven Defenders, Paladins and other combat classes, backed up by the occasional cleric – but there were no real casters, and we would just swarm everything that we came across. It was brilliant fun.

But my main role was to write social systems for the server. I don’t think Prince Wally was expecting that when he took me on – but he certainly saw it as a bonus. One set of scripts changed characters alignments – steal stuff or smuggle drugs you become more chaotic, Kill innocents you move to evil etc. There were other actions that moved you towards Lawful or Good and the whole thing became an RP rules subset, where you picked up alignment changes according to your behaviour. Another set of scripts dealt with titles. You could pick up a knighthood, or various other titles, by carrying out quests and spending money. Then all the NPCs started calling you by rank and title whenever you spoke to them. There were other, less public, effects as well.

Probably the death system was the most widely used. Rather than charging a fixed amount of gold and XP to respawn, I made death into a small adventure. So long as you had made an offering to the death god, you were allowed to run back to life along the Paths of the Dead. Disembodied spirits would try to steal some of your life (xp) and coins for the boatman (gp) from you as you ran. The only problem was that there were four different areas, and they all looked exactly the same – but each had a slightly different solutions. It became a bit of a fun, and added a bit of extra challenge to the game.

Then they got rid of NWN and replaced it with NWN II – which wasn’t anywhere near as good – and the whole scene died away fairly quickly. Until recently, when Beamdog released a ‘remastered’ version of the original NWN. It runs on Win 10, and other operating systems, it only cost me £15 on steam, and I get updates automatically. Win/Win.

However, I am not particularly impressed by the persistent game worlds that are out there – but then both my wife and I are very particular about where we play. Recently we have been playing on a world called Blackstone Keep, although I think we are coming towards the end of our time there. But, we are still there looking around, and we might yet find a few more areas to keep us amused. If not, I am sure we will find somewhere else to play for a while.

But, as you might have guessed, I have started build a new Persistent World of my own. At the moment I have the basic persistence scripted, a world plan and a few dozen areas. I have almost finished a new script-set, that automates basic boss encounters, and when I add that characters will be able to progress to level five or six! Yeah, I know that isn’t very high, but gives me the base to build the rest of the world on.

The next phase will bring in my ‘alignment changing’ script set, a simple point-to-point teleportation system, and a few more encounter areas! I’m looking forward to it.

Just as an aside – if any of you play NWN, let me know and maybe we can get together on a PW at some point. Or, just as importantly, if you want to help build the world, I would be happy to hear from you. Scripters, adventure developers, story editors are all welcome.

Before long I will be hosting the world publicly on a home server, but if it gets big enough (and good enough) I will probably pay for it to be hosted professionally. That woul be nice 🙂

The Birthday Game

This weekend was our annual Birthday Game, a weekend of gaming that serves as Ari’s (my wife0 birthday party and my birthday present to her. We start Friday evening and play five sessions of three to four hours, which means we normally finish around bout lunch-time on Sunday. When we started we experimented with players and numbers, but a few years ago settled on a group consisting of Ian (my son), Cristian and Swampy (A couple of friends I have known for years), Greg and Leighton (friends we met at a TT group local a few years ago). Ages range from 20s to 60s, but we all get on really well together – and they are all experienced players with an eye for some low level teasing and a bit of fun. The party consists of:-

  • Fern – a half-elven Ranger with connections (Ari)
  • Cal – a dwarf Rogue with aggressive tendencies (Ian)
  • Seamus – a mithral clad Paladin (Cris)
  • Marvello – an aristocratic Mystic Theurge (Swampy)
  • Mulog – an eccentric Druid with an unhealthy interest in frogs (Greg)
  • Stonewall – a half-orc Barbarian-Oracle (Leighton)

The weekend always starts in the same way – bowl of home-made stew, character updating and a fairly straightforward game session that lets everyone get into their characters. Then probably a bottle of port, or two as we reminisce before bed. Saturday starts with plates of bacon sandwiches, and three playing sessions separated by breaks for lunch and dinner – from the local take-away. Oh, and more port to round the evening out… Sunday is more bacon sandwiches, before the last session (the climax of the adventure) and finishes at about lunchtime so everyone can get home at a sensible time.

The campaign is based around a series of old AD&D 1e adventures that have been stitched together to make a short campaign. This year’s scenario was called The Ghost Tower of Inverness, which was originally used as a tournament dungeon back in 1979.  TSR added a few extra encounters when the released it as a module and I added a few more to help bring it up-to-date and make sure everyone was kept on their toes.  The concept is fairly straightforward, as you would expect from a tournament dungeon, with four dungeon tunnels for the party to explore.  In each they need to find part of a key.  Once they have all four parts, they can enter the Ghost Tower and fight their way to the artefact that they were sent to recover. All very straightforward – except that it was a powerful wizard’s tower and the whole place is defended by magical traps and summonses.

The leg they chose to explore first included an Aurumvorax trapped in an advanced Sepia Snake Sigil, a manticore and an old-fashioned rolling-ball illusion. None of which really caused them any problems 🙂

The second leg had a room that summoned random monsters, a room with animating statues of Bugbears and a corridor protected by Swarm of Fangs spells. The random monsters were fairly easy, and they worked out the trigger for the bugbear statues quickly – however, the Fangs caught them unawares, and they only survived but running away and closing a door behind them *Evil DM Grin*

The third leg proved the most interesting with a variety of interesting encounters. There was bead curtain they needed to force their way through – that promptly summoned a group of monsters everytime they passed through and a series of rooms (going nowhere) whose doors all slammed and, locked as soon as the party were spread out, it became a race against time as the party tried to unlock or force all of the doord before their air ran out. It also contained a variant of the Chess Board trap, where they take damage if the step on the wrong square, but the squares were coloured differently and they never quite wored it out. The last one was an Invisible Stalker that attacked the party in a corridor and they lost their mage before they managed to defeat it. Fortunately they had a Raise Dead scroll, but they had a mage with reduced abilities for the rest of the module.

The fourth leg started with a crystal ball that summoned monsters – and they had to slay four of them before the door would open. There were a couple of Ice Toads and a Minotaur before they got the Siege Owlbear, which gave them a bit more of a problem. That was followed by an Umber Hulk that caused confusion amongst the party, and left them fighting each other, even after the monster had been defeated. The last encounter on this leg was a (somewhat tweaked) Cutlass Spider with many attacks per round but minimal defences. After along discussion they chose to fight it out, sword to sword – which was amusing for me *Evil DN Grin* as the Ranger , much to her surprise, got seriously hurt. Still, they finished up winning a couple of magical weapons from the combat.

Then it was on to the upper levels. The first four were based on the elements. An Air room, filled with mist, a Wyvern and a handful of flying dinosaurs! Only able to see10′ and under attack, the party soon split up but used signal whistles to bring themselves back together again. Then they fought their way up a spiral staircase (iron with open sides) to ….

The earth level full of trees and thick undergrowth where, apart from the Druid, they were forced to follow the paths. After dealing with some over-muscled monkeys, they found a medusa. While they killed her rather quickly, their rogue was petrified – and they didn’t have a Stone to Flesh spell between them. However, Stonewall (the Barbarian-Oracle) call on his ancestors (who normally plague him terribly) and they provided a recipe that might work. All of their Keoghtom’s Ointment, mixed up with medusa blood, medusa snake venom, and ash – to be smeared all over the petrified dwarf, as each party member cast a (carefully selected) spell. The mixture worked, although the Rogue had a -5 penalty to dex, from calcified joints. As a DM, it seemed a fair price – reduced spell casting ability for each character and all of their Keoghtom’s Ointment in exchange for an impaired rogue.

Next was a fire level, that had a path leading across a lake of flames – with a Fire Giant standing at the other end lobbing boulders. Most of the party were distracted by some Fire Flies (think Fire Bat type creatures – but I have some model flies of the right size) while the rogue and paladin went to deal with the Fire Giant. However, they discovered the Reverse Gravity trap that was actually the entrance to the next level instead. Buy this time the barbarian was trying to climb around the walls to get to the Fire Giant and no-one was quite sure what to do with the reverse gravity area. So the paladin went to face the Giant down, but was reduced to negative HP in a couple of rounds – something that we, in this house, call an ‘Oh shit’ moment. Cue the druid, wild shaped into an Air Elemental, going to rescue both the paladin and the barbarian – then shepherding everyone to the reverse gravity area – which was the route to the next level.

The Water level was under a Reverse Gravity spell, so the water was on the ‘ceiling’ and the door to the next level was somewhere under the water. The problem was the massive prehistoric fish, who swam in this small sea. Amusingly, the rogue managed to keep it at bay by throwing coconuts (there was a classic desert island in the middle of this sea). He even managed a confirmed crit by rolling two 20s in a row 🙂 However, the fish managed to get hold of the barbarian and swallowed him whole. This led to an encounter with the paladin riding the druid’s animal companion (a large frog) as it swam into battle – he was supported by air-elemental druid and the barbarian cutting himself out. TBH, the frog riding paladin probably didn’t conform to the rules – but it was fun, and they would have got the fish anyway 😛

The last level was nasty – the artefact in the centre of the room, protected by a force field – and randomly shining a Death Ray around the room. I did say it was originally a 1st Ed tournament dungeon, didn’t I? There was a Will save against the death ray, and the poor, hard done by, rogue managed to fail his. The party saw his ecotoplasmic spirit dragged into the gem and were left with a white-bleached corpse and its white-bleached equipment – the crystal had sucked the life and magic out of everything!

However, they grabbed the crystal, which signalled the end of the module, and they managed to get home safely. Their patron paid for the rogue’s spirit to be released from the crystal, as well as the Restoration spells needed to fetch everyone back to normal (ready for next year’s adventure). However, he didn’t replace the items lost by the dwarf, but the party all donated their share of the loot to replace it, although they kept the reward their patron gave them. Their feeling was that it would be a good thing to have an effective rogue for next year’s adventure – and I suspect they are right!

For now, they have all retired to their homes. Mulog is back in his swamp, trying to breed an Octo-Frog – so that all members of the family can have a leg at dinner. Marvello is developing the school in his town to teach Knowledge skills (particularly Magic and Religion) because the current generation of peasants are boring and can’t hold a decent conversation. Seamus is building a sword school in his village and a shrine to Iomedae in his keep. Cal is still working on his underground home, and has opened his palisaded keep up to hunters and trappers in an attempt to increase the size of his settlement. He is still looking for a way to turn it into a smuggling route, but he hasn’t yet found anything in the mountains that is worth smuggling. Stonewall is trying to develop his defences further, as he is worried about giants invading, while Fern is still thinking of ways she can develop her wilderness holdings.

Am I looking forward to next year? You bet I am. Are the players? Well they asked if I would run two a year, so I guess so 🙂 Either way, roll on ‘Dark Clouds Gather’ – the next module in the campaign