Thoughts on the Loss of an Artist

Yesterday, I learned about the death of David Trampier or “D.A.T,” as he signed much of his work.  Before Elmore and Parkinson, before Lockwood and Reynolds, there was Sutherland and Trampier.  David Trampiers’s work in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons still sings to me.  In black and white, he drew the imaginations of many gamers and was a well-liked cartoonist for his comic, Wormy.  He painted the scene on the first ever Dungeon Master’s Screen (I still own 3 copies).  Trampier,Sutherland, and Otus are the ones who gave vision to many of my encounters and in my minds eye, it is their work that I first see when I think of traditional D&D monsters.  Trampier’s winged, black panther, Solomoriah, may have been the first of its kind and his ability to fly between the spheres is an image that has haunted my daydreams for years.  His art remains, but the artist is now gone.

It appears that Mr Trampier had a troubled life.  I and others have wondered about what caused him to separate himself from the gaming community; he had a lot of gaming credits to his name, when he withdrew from public life.  I never knew the man, but   his death at 59 bothers me greatly.

David Trampier was 22 or 23, when he and his brother-in-law, Tom Wham had illustrations published in the Monster Manual in 1977.  I was 12 or 13 and wouldn’t hear of D&D for another 3 years.  He wrote and illustrated a wonderful comic.  He seemed to have a great career.  His last published work of which I know is the Wormy comic installment in Dragon 132 in April 1988.  What happened in those 11 years that made him leave his public life and his art?  Where did the artist that gave me the rakshasa go?  Did he have a good life?  Did he regret his choice to leave?  Was he happy?  Who mourns him?  What do I do now?

What do I do?  I share my feelings about David Trampier with the world.  I game on and use his illustrations to enliven the imaginations of new players and old.  I continue to enjoy the great D&D artists that followed him.  I live my life to its fullest potential, create, and share.  After life is for living and living well, may I never forget that and do my best to do just that.

Kevin Gisi has a great You Tube response to mourning celebrities.  He is speaking about Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but I feel much the same about Dave Trampier.

Until next time, Game On!

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A Probably Not-so Secret Secret (or Making it up as I go Along)

Want to know a secret.  I make it all up.  Nearly every bit of my D&D game, I improvise.

I have idea and plans, but when I sit down at the table, ninety percent of what goes on is created on the spot.  There are multiple reasons for why this is the case.  Often, my players head off in directions that I never imagined.  Other times, I get to the table and realize that what I created and built, just isn’t going to work.  Occasionally, I just don’t have anything ready; I have good intentions, but like the Road to Hell, I get paved with them.  Sometimes, I just want the thrill of creating on the fly.  Sometimes, it makes me feel like I am a huckster selling snake-oil.

Now, in my defense, I do create NPCs, and towns, and monsters with which the PCs may interact.  I love making and twisting maps and often have those on hand to help orient the PCs.  I design cultural touchstones, so the Storm Kingdom is different than Neverwinter.  I have been making secret cards for the NPCs and special places and items that exist on Rilmorn.  I craft magic items, sometimes before the game and sometimes during the game.  I plan combat and social encounters to challenge my players.  Yet, despite doing that work, I still seem to be making things up at the table.

There’s my secret.

Game on!

Not-So-Random Questions (or This is Not a Gaming Post)

Do you Blog, Vlog, or Podcast?

Which ones, if any?

Do you follow one or more of those media?

Which ones, if any?

Why or Why Not?

Is there another medium that is better or more interesting to you?

Which social medium or media do you use?

Which do you prefer?

Why?

I’ve cross posted this on Facebook, Google Plus, and Live Journal.  I don’t vlog or produce You Tube content, but I may try something in the Comments of my favorite collab channel, Vlogalogue.

With a Humble Heart

Arrogance is not an attitude or a set of actions, as is defined in many a dictionary.  It is a place.  It is a place that Creators can often find themselves, if they are not careful.  We (those that write, design, sculpt, paint, and/or otherwise create) can, all too often, begin to believe our own hype and we move our way into arrogance.

I, once, heard Robert Jordan speak about “world creation as a writer” on a panel at large science fiction convention.  He was with another writer and they had drifted onto the topic of magic in fantasy worlds.  Jordan seemed to hold the belief that Clarke’s Third Law, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” was the truth of all magic; Magic is just Super Advanced or Non-understood Science.  When the female author tried to offer the idea that was true in his books, but not hers, Jordan reinforced his belief that there was no such thing as magic and called her stupid for thinking anything else.  That left a sour taste in my mouth and I’ve not been interested in reading any more of the Wheel of Time series, since.

During my college days, I encountered two instances of, what I perceived as, arrogance.  One came from Gary Gygax on page 64 of Dragon #67.

The AD&D game system does not allow the injection of extraneous material.  That is clearly stated in the rule books. It is thus a simple matter: Either one plays the AD&D game, or one plays something else, just as one either plays poker according to Hoyle, or one plays (Western) chess by tournament rules, or one does not.  Since the game is the sole property of TSR and its designer, what is official and what is not has meaning if one plays the game. Serious players will only accept official material, for they play the game rather than playing at it, as do those who enjoy “house rules” poker, or who push pawns around the chess board.  No power on earth can dictate that gamers not add spurious rules and material to either the D&D or AD&D game systems, but likewise no claim to playing either game can then be made.  Such games are not D&D or AD&D games — they are something else, classifiable only under the generic “FRPG” catch-all.  To be succinct, whether you play either game or not is your business, but in order to state that you play either, it is obviously necessary to play them with the official rules, as written.  Thus, when you get information in these pages which bears the “official” stamp, that means it can immediately be used in game play.

The other came from a fellow Game Master on the University of Southern Mississippi campus.  Doc stated before a group of people that, if anybody wanted to play D&D, they had to play in his D&D world and his way, since his game “was the only game in town.”  Both of these cases struck a nerve with me.  My response to Doc’s claim was to pick up my D&D stuff form my parent’s house the following weekend and start up a game that ran for multiple years.  I really didn’t do anything in response to Mr. Gygax’s claim that those who didn’t play by the “official” rules weren’t really playing AD&D, but were playing at it; however that claim did make me less willing to read anything by Gary Gygax and more willing to look to third party producers of FRPG content for my D&D game.

Now, I’ve got to ask myself, “Gregory, have you ever gone to Arrogance?”  I have been told that I run good games and over the years, former players who have gone on to play in other person’s games, have told me that I have ruined them, because my games were more interesting and/or enjoyable than others.  I’m proud of my work.  If I was not proud of what I do and create, then why would I want to do it?

Now, I must look and see, if I have become haughty and disdainful.  Have I forgotten that others can create, as well?  Do I always strive to be a better game master?  Are there things that I can do to make my world better and more enjoyable?  Do I still as +DKlarations says “Keep the Channel Open?”

Until I post again, Game On!

The Last Hurrah

E3 is officially retired.

The threat posed by the Giants in the Earth is abated.  Feldspar divides his time between wandering the multiverse, seeking more Trees of Power to link to the Quan, and his Primal Forest home.  Surana has completed the restoration of Castle Timeless and defeated Linden; she now rules as the Chronarch of the Castle.  Belvar has transformed the Black Manor in Quan from a staging area for monsters seeking the destruction of all hominid species to an interdimensional trade moot.   Ghul has returned to the Nine Hells to continue his rise to power in the Infernal Hierarchy.  Aktara,once the Far Realm Breach was closed, found that her patron, Ulban, had stripped her of her Star Pact  powers.  Undaunted, Aktara retires to Arkosia to allow the ancient dragon soul within her to manifest.

The End.

These are the final fates of the Members of E3, but it was not the end of the Giants in the Earth campaign.

The last game began with a bang.  We started the game in the middle of a fight.  I told the players to drop half their hit points, half of their healing surges, and half of their encounter powers.  My brother-in-law and nephew could not make it, but Hil and my daughter Nicki could; so Blackwood (my nephew’s PC) accepted help from the Book of Vile Darkness and he and Vondal were sucked up a vortex that spit out Ghul (Hil’s PC) and Aktara (Nicki’s PC).  They defeat the yochlol and headed on toward the first of “giants” Titan.

It was nice to have Ghul and Aktara back in the party, since they filled out the roster of the original members of E3.  The party made it through three difficult fights and one not as difficult skill challenge and won the day.  We epilogued the big threads still unresolved (Belvar was freed of the Verdis implant and not consumed by his ring Al-Bari.  Surana defeated Linden and merged the Centre of Time and Castle Timeless.  Feldspar traveled to Divlos and Thegnland and connected the trees of the Land beyond the Wind and Azenwrath to the Quan.  E3 Trading Company continued to turn a profit and Spellguard grew into a prosperous city-state.) and ended the campaign.  It was a fun night.

Christina and I got to talking about the campaign and we believe that the campaign may have begun in March or at the latest April of 2009.  It started as a game for Surana, Beryl (my daughter Lisa’s PC), and Aktara in the city of Refuge.  They played three or four sessions before the others arrived.  Lisa dropped out of the game before the rest of the crew that would become infamous as the E3 Trading Company appeared on the scene.  So, I ran this campaign for five years.  It was Christina’s first full campaign.  She had never played a character from newbie adventurer to legendary hero.  Ending the game carried a special weight for her.  I have found a similar weight in my soul.

I write out secrets on index cards for things in my world.  I got this idea from Ray Winnigar’s “Dungeoncraft” articles.  Everything that I create gets a secret that the PCs may or may not find out.  Each time the party finds out a secret, I give them the index card.  After the game, we compared their stack against all undiscovered secrets from previous campaigns, the Tasque Elzeny campaign, and the ones they never learned in this campaign.  Their stack was bigger.  They encountered and learned more about Rilmorin than I have left to reveal at this time.  Wow.

I’ve got more ideas and campaign plans, but building a new campaign seems more daunting in some undefinable way, than it did before and I do not know why.  This is not my first rodeo.  I ran the “War of the Dragons;” I set up and set down the final battles with the Overlord and Babylon.  “Berbalang, Tabok, and the Fairies” ran for a number of years and ended epicly (with two epilogue sessions).  My four 3E campaigns rose and fell in a grand fashion and after each of those I was not heavy in my soul.  What was different about this campaign?

I don’t know what makes this campaign’s end different.  What I do know is that the repercussions from this campaign will echo through many of my games to come.  Castle Timeless, the Quan, and Spellguard are going to be sites to which PCs will adventure.  Aktara will show up as the “Only Tiefling in Arkosia.”  Surana is the Chronarch, she will play the role of Nimsûl and guide PCs to Castle Timeless.  Ghul is a Prince of Hell (or a lich or a Spellscarred Savant) and will surely reappear as gadfly or villain.  Belvar and Feldspar are both dragons and I love throwing in dragons.  The Giants in the Earth will provide hooks and stories for years to come.

Maybe the heaviness at this particular ending comes from what is going on outside game.  One friend is moving away, but will be back for his wedding.  One friend is looking to buy a house with his S.O.  One friend is dealing with a a great and profound grief.  My daughter will be a mother in five months.  Also, this is my last 4E game; from this point forward all games are going to be DnD Next playtest rules.  Are extra-game events making this ending more profound?

I hate leaving this post on a hanging note, but I don’t have any answers.  If any of you out there do, please offer me some ideas.  Until next time, GAME ON!

Inner World

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, I will begin what should be the last session of my Giants in the Earth campaign.  It will take place in the Inner World of Rilmorn.  I’ve done very little design on the Inner World over the years.  Thom and Mike helped me set out the parameters of the Inner World: 1) it is a world set on the interior of the Rylmorn, 2) it has a single, brownish star at its center, and 3) it is more “science powered,” than “magic powered”.  Ken, as Shae’Fer, encountered the Asianesque, jade dragon Shou Lung, when Shae’Fer was stranded in the Inner World.  Ken would be the person most active in the Inner World.  He, as his character, took volunteers from his homeland and placed them in stasis, so that they could repopulate and restore the world, if there was ever a Worldwide Disaster.  Later, Shae’Fer would hide a bunch of lich-related artifacts in the brown dwarf star at the center of the world, in a failed attempt to keep them out of Evil’s hands.  Recently, I decided that three, ancient, colony ships from alternate Earths had crashed inside Rillmorrin.  Each ship was run by an intelligent super computer named after a giant from that Earth’s myth or history.  That is everything I’ve done on the design of the Inner World.

The Inner World of Rilmorn is inspired by Pellucidar from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Skartaris from Mike Grell.  It was to be a place seeded with ancient monsters and super science.  I never built such a place.  It has always been a hazy, unformed realm that I could reference in metaphor and allusion.

The Brown Dwarf reigns above the Giants in the Earth,” is probably my favorite quote dropped by a “mad prophet” in my games.

So, what do I have in place in the Inner World?

  • A brown dwarf microstar that illuminates the lands and oceans of a hollow world
  • A realm where science is more effective than magic
  • 3 ancient, super computers in the remains of their spacecraft
    • Colossus comes from an Earth where American English and Celtic Christianity are the language and faith of the majority of the populace
    • Goliath is from a world where the Akkadian Empire remained a world power and their faith is that of the Sumerian and Babylonian peoples
    • Titan knew a world wherein the Greeks dominated culture worldwide
  • An ancient language based on the percentage of survivors of the total number of colonists; created and shared by the 3 AIs – Orthoni is 60% English, 30% Greek, and 10% Akkadian
  • A magical/runic alphabet called Dymetri that when written precisely produces magical effects
  • Dinosaurs
  • Kularin (winged folk) in stasis
  • Dragons
  • Dragons corrupted by Far Realm energies

Having all of this still unmapped and uncodified has left me in a quandary.  Should I use Numenera as my Inner World setting?  I was going to say, “Yes, since it appeared, serendipitously, the day before my last game” but I got to thinking about so many other ways I can use the setting.  Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’ll have a plan by next Saturday.  Anybody got any suggestions?

Oh, by the way, this weekend 7-9 March 2014 is CoastCon XXXVII.

Game On!

GM’s Day 2014

On March 4, 2008 CE, E. Gary Gygax, one of  cofounders Dungeons and Dragons passed away.  In the years since his passing, the day of his death has become known as GM’s Day or Game Master’s Day.  (I may be incorrect on the origins of GM’s Day.)  Many gamers choose to run special or retro-style games in Gary’s honor.  Game outlets often offer special deals.  I’m going to post about my Big 4E game and plan on starting a DnD Next game, tonight, with my wife and younger daughter.

The “Giants in the Earth” game went off well.  We had to cut in the middle and plan on finishing it on Saturday, March 16, 20014.  The two groups blended smoothly.  I gave the party a glimpse of the Qalibar and its “black hole sun.”  Qalibar is remains of a worlds that were devastated by the Paradox Wars.  (I lifted both Qalibar and the Partadox Wars from game I read, but do not own.  I’d like to find this game and buy it, but my Google-Fu is very poor.)

They encountered Linden, Mistress of Time at the Centre of Time.  They declined her offer to help them navigate the Infinite Paths that lead off from the Centre of Time and used their own powers to get where they needed to go and do what they needed to do.  I got to show them the remains of Spellguard, as it hurtled backwards through Time and the Elemental Chaos – the Body Luminous.  From there, they retrieved the Ivory Pine of Sestus, after fighting past a pack of white slaadi and a lone black slaad.

They used the Infinite Paths to collect the Seed of the Dreaming Tree and they chose to not awaken the rust dragon, sleeping in the hollow interior of the tree.

They returned to the Centre of Time to make their way to Galen’s Tomb hidden beneath Sceptre Tower in Spellguard.  There, they fought two Galens.  One was corporeal, while the other was an insubstantial phane.  During their fight, the dragon Dhivanara appeared and cried for help.  She was laying her, now hatching egg, and being attacked by Time Killers (Linden’s Temporal Assassins).  The PCs prevailed and Chonepsis was born, all three of him.  One time-jumped to the Past.  A second one jumped to the Future, leaving a third one to introduce himself as Chronepsis and ask for a gate key of 100 platinum coins to use to pass through the Living Gate.

While Chronepsis was returning to his lair, E3 Plus painted the lintel of Galen’s Tomb with his blood and went to Castle Timeless.  There they found their way to the Key to Time and retrieved their ship, Enterprise, and collected the Holly-Oak of Melikki from Oseric Magnis of Laurant.  After all the trees were collected, Bollenboch, the figurehead and dragon bonded with the Enterprise took the crew to Occiptus and collected Eldwar’s consort, Iomaudra.  Once the “team” was complete, Bollenboch plane shifted to the Inner World.

Game Paused.

It went well.  Fights were long and I got bored on occasion, but the players were on the top of their game and I could not have asked for a better or more attentive group.  I’m hoping the final encounters will be as engaging and rewarding.

Until next time, Game On!