Old World, New Players

I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  I’ve been running D&D in the same game world since 1980.  I’m proud of my maps (Thank you, John Hesselberg and Thom Thetford).  I’m proud of the history that has gone into making Rillmorn what it is today, both the stuff my Players did in-game and what I did in building background.  I am proud of it all, even the parts where it didn’t work or where I acted poorly, but that is a whole lot of stuff and me Players can get overwhelmed with it.  It becomes even harder when you have established players alongside newbies.  How does one do it?  How does a Game Master share the depth and grandeur of his or her world and not scare new Players away?

Are my new Players already gamers or are they true Babes in the Gaming Woods?  If they are already gamers and they have played my favorite game system before, then I start small.  (This is based on the idea of starting a new campaign, not bringing new Players into an existing and ongoing game.)  I don’t drop them into Spellguard with all of its complex politics and vast number of detailed NPCs.  I start them off in a small town on the edge of “The Action.”  I give them the very basics about Rilmorn and go from there.  In my most recent campaign Duvamil (it is based around the riverside town of Duvamil), I started my PCs into a few decades old village founded by gnomish refugees from Terah, another world.  They have seen the big map of the area and have been told that Rillmorn has 2 suns, 3 moons, 9 day weeks, 26 hour days, and 38 day months.  They know Bazarene the Moving City (effectively an aircraft carrier on a hovercraft) and the Walking Wood (a nomadic tree city of forest giants) cross paths in Duvamil.  That’s it.  Everything else, they are leaning as we play.

Christina, my wife, knows a bit more about the area, since her dragonborn ranger Surana was with E3 when they explored the Tower of Spells.  What she knows will be used more as legends than anything else, since the previous campaign’s actions should have little to no effect on the current game.  Nicki, my daughter, has played a bit in Rillmorn, but not enough to have deep knowledge of the world.  Finally, JR, Nicki’s friend, has never played in one of my games before, but has played a little bit of D&D 3.5.  So, everything I drop into this game can be brand new information to the Players, as well as, the PCs.

If I had true newbies, I’d have to decide if I was going to hand them the Player’s Handbook or the Player’s D&D Basic Rules that I downloaded off the web.  I’d most likely go with the web download.  It has 4 basic options and 4 basic classes, the essence, if you will, of D&D. However, his review says 5E is really a good fit for new players.  Also, if I had true newbies, I would put them in a more traditional D&D setting…maybe something like the Keep on the Borderlands.

My true problem is that I have so much that I want to reveal to my Players:  the secrets and history of the Tower of Spells, the various hidden cities and enclaves about Duvamil, and all of the stuff that I swiped from Monte Cook and other 3E sources and seeded around this area of Rilmorn.  Alas, I can’t; not yet.  Some of this may be revealed in game play, but I don’t know yet if it will.  I have to focus my creative energies on building solid plots and interesting NPCs that advance the stories for these PCs.  What has gone before is the bedrock on which I can build, but unless the Players and PCs dig, I may be the only one to ever know it and that is okay.  Maybe it will come up in a later campaign.

TL:DR New Players in an Old World?  Start small and keep your focus and maybe there will be time enough later for all the big stuff.

Game On!

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Shameless Self Promotion (or Yet, Another Lame Non-Gaming Post)

I got the business cards that my wife ordered for me over a week ago, but I just thought about posting a pic of one of them about 2 days ago.  Here it is:

Business Card

Just noticed, there is lint on my scanner (check out the spot on the Coast of Africa).

The second hardest part of having a blog is getting readers.  How do you get readers?  I know that much of my original reader base came from my friends on Facebook.  My next boost came from Vexar nominating me for a Sunshine Award.  Since then, the last “Grand Influx” came from Frank Mentzer reading my post on “Dice Fudging” and then posting about it on his Facebook Account; Raven Crowking posting a rebuttal on his site and kindly linking his post to my original, surely helped my readership, as well.  Finally, some readers found me from my comments on the posts of my fellow bloggers.  Thank you all very much.  (2014.09.19)

In the form of social media, I have the following accounts:

Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/guldensupp) Wherein, I like things my friends post and promote my latest World Engineer post.

Live Journal: (http://guldensupp.livejournal.com/) Wherein, I sometimes offer other thoughts than those directly to gaming and post about My Tweets and (http://rilmorn.livejournal.com/) wherein, I post as a Wanderer, new to my game world, Rylmoryn.

Twitter: (https://twitter.com/Guldensupp) Wherein, I tweet about my posts on my World Engineer blog.

Tumbler: (http://guldensupp.tumblr.com/) Wherein, I post links to my World Engineer blog posts.

Google Plus(https://plus.google.com/+GregoryGuldensupp/posts) Wherein, I “comment on” and “+” cool things, respond to You Tube videos, and link to post my World Engineer account.

Oh, yeah, I have a defunct Blogspot account: It was the original site for my Wanderer’s Words about Rillmorrin.  Here is the last post I made on that site: http://rilmorn.blogspot.com/2013/07/pathways_26.html

Game On

Buy-Ins

The term “buy-in” when used in finance means “stock up on to keep for future use or sale;” it also has another meaning involving the buying of selling of stocks, but I don’t really understand it.  In poker, the buy-in is the amount of money amount one pays to play in a poker tournament.  So, what does it mean in Role Play Gaming and how does it work?

In what is becoming a very twisted helix, the Games Librarian and I are once again posting about each other’s posts.  (Just for the record, the Games Librarian and I have never met in the physical world and do not know each other outside of our blogs.)  Last week, he was led to post about the old RPGing trope of starting an adventure or even a campaign in a tavern.  He is responding to posts by Shane Runkle and Admiral Ironbombs.  This post of mine is about what intrigued me most in all these posts – The Buy-In.

The Buy-In in role playing is the hook that pulls the Players and PCs into the game.  It is the setup that allows the GM to provide the opening into the interactive storytelling event that we call gaming.  Most of the time, it is a simple matter for the Game Master to provide a little description and introduce the NPC that tells the PCs where to go, so they can do their derring-do and be heroic.  Yet, this is not always the case.  What are some of the ways the Buy-In can fail?

Some call Buy-In “Character Buy-In,” after the question, “Why would [fill in character name here] be doing this?” but this is a lie, it is always Player Buy-In.   It is the idea that a Player has built a Character with certain traits or one that has a specific history that would preclude the Character from going on the adventure.  When this happens the Player often claims, “I’m just roleplaying my character!”  What I see this as is a player who has chosen to play a different “game.”  The Player wants more table time, either because he or she is an immersive role player and truly wants to play a character that has established motivations or because he or she just wants attention.  If one has the first type of Player, then the GM should get with the Player well before the opening game to help the player refine his or her character concept to better align with the planned Buy-In or learn what motivates the PC and alter the Buy-In.  If the Player is the latter, consider getting a new Player.

Beginnings are very delicate times.  Sometimes the opening is boring.  Mr. Runkle makes this point very clear in his post about the “Meet at a Tavern” cliché.  If the GM doesn’t provide something to make it interesting, then the Players are likely to not care about the game.  If the GM flubs the beginning, then it is very hard to get the Players back into the game.  Too much exposition can kill interest.  Too little can leave Players floundering; wondering what is supposed to be happening.  Is it too trite? Is it too innovative?  There is no right answer, because every GM is different, every group is different, and every game is different.  Only time, experience, and a willingness to change things on the fly will get one through this situation.

Occasionally, the GM wants to run a game that the Players don’t want to play.  If the GM wants to run a Lunar Criminal Investigation Service game and the Players want to play a Dungeon of the Week game, then there won’t be a lot of Buy-In.  Ideally, the GM and the Players have their expectations out on the game table and they discuss what they want from a game before they begin.  Other than finding a group that wants to play the exact game that GM sets out, this is the only way I see out of this particular conundrum. (2014.09.28)

I’ve started campaigns in many ways, but the best way I’ve found is to have the Players accept that the PCs are already acquaintances, traveling companions, and/or friends and begin in the middle of the action.  I’ve started campaigns in the middle of combat.  I’ve started them at a dungeon entrance.  I started one with all the PCs being selected by the Crown to part of a secret missions/police force and another began as the PCs were randomly picked members of a team competing for a prize from the leaders of government.  The trick is always the same, get the Players interested and they will accept the Buy-In.

Game On!

Fantasy Demographics

This post is pure indulgence on my part.  I truly expect anyone other than me to be completely bored with it.  This is a grid of all the players that I can remember and what races and how many of each race they played in my games.  This does not include any one off games or single appearances by a character in a larger campaign.  I’m sure I’ve missed players and characters and will add those as I recall them.

Key:

Di – Diavlin (desert dwelling fire race)

Dw – Dwarf

El – Elf

EH – Elf/Human Hybrid

Hu – Human

HK – Human/Kularin Hybrid

HO – Human/Orc Hybrid

Id – Idré (ocean dwelling water race)

Ku – Kularin (winged air race)

Or – Orc

Dr – Dragonborn (see 4E or 5E PHB)

Ha – Halfling

Sh – Shifter (see 4E PHB2)

Ti – Tiefling (see 4E or 5E PHB)

Sd – Shade (see 4E Heroes of Shadow)

Vr – Vryloka (see 4E Heroes of Shadow)

Gn – Gnome

C= – Total number of characters ran by that player

R= – Total number of each race played in my campaigns

GT – Grand Total

Player Di Dw El EH Hu HK HO Id Ku Or Dr Ha Sh Ti Sd Vr Gn C= GT
Adrian 1 1
Andy 2 2
Ben 2 2
Bob 1 1
Brandon 1 2 3
Charles 1 1
Chyenne 1 1
Christina 1 3 1  1  1  1 8
Clint 1 1
David 1 1
Davy 1 1
Eric 1 4 5
Hesselburg 1 1
Hil 1 3 4 1 9
James 1 1 4 1 6 2 1 16
Jane 3 1 4
JD 1 1
Jeff 2 2
John 1 1 2
John Paul 1 1
Ken 1 1 2
Kevin 1 1
Magee 1 3 1 5
Matt  1 1 2 3 1 1 9
Mechelle 1 1
Michael 1 1 2
Morgan 1 1
Nicki 1 1 2
Russ 2 2
Russell 1 1
Scheopf 1 1
Spencer 1 1
Stephen 1 1
Thom 1 1 2
Todd 1 1 2
Tom 1 3 4
Topher 1 1 2
Vicki 2 1 8 1 12
R= 5 6 19 13 52 2 1 3 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 2   114
GT 114

Of the 114 characters that I can recall being in my games, 52 were human.  The next largest demographic were elves at 19 individuals (This includes characters from an “Elf Only” campaign.  Does anyone else have a breakdown on race demographics in their games?

My friend Zachary Anderson @raidingparty.livejournal.com made his own grid of players and PC races. (2014.10.02)

I recently found Fluer du mal and he’s got a great site.  He has a list of Players and Characters from his games.  I really am interested to learn more about how his game world runs. (2014.10.02)

Game On!

Gnomes and Rillmorn

Here is where I talk about my dislike of gnomes.  Here is where I talk about designing fantasy races.  Now, I’m going to let Matt Harris and the rest of my readers know what decisions I’ve made about gnomes in my world of Rilmorn.

After much debate with myself, I have come to the following decisions about Gnomes in my campaign world, Rillmorn.  1. Gnomes are not historically native to Rillmorn.  2.  A single mixed community of gnomes exists on Rillmorn.  It is located near the town of Duvamil (The fact that the 5E PHB list “Duvamil” as a female gnomish name is coincidental.  Duvamil has existed in Rilmorn since 3E, when I ran my Sanderzani campaign.)  3. Gmomes are a clan of dwarves caught, enslaved, and experimented upon by Fomorians, giants from the Fey Realm.  4.  Gnomes have close ties to Elemental Earth and are somehow related to the elemental creatures Salamanders, Sylphs, and Undines; fire, air, and water, respectively.  Having made these decisions, I will now attempt to explain how I got to them. (2014.10.02)

Number 1 is simply based on the fact that from March 1980 A.D. until August 2014 A.D. there were no gnomes in Rillmorn.  I had never used them.  I never allowed them to be played.  There were no gnomes.

Number 2 is based on the background that I gave Christina and Nicki when they were creating their characters.  They are from the gnome warren Featherstone.  The warren of Featherstone was founded by refugees from the world of Terah, after the gnomes’ homelands were destroyed by the forces from the Caves of Chaos.  It is located northeast of Duvamil (a village known for being the intersection of the paths of Bazarene the Traveling City and forest giants’ tree city, The Walking Wood, and the site of great mill located on the Zagreb River – sometimes when a bag of flour or meal from this mill is opened, a large, 9” long dove feather is found in the bag). (2014.10.02)

Number 3 is based on the backstory of the dwarves and gnomes from 4E.  In 4E, dwarves were created by the gods.  Giants were created by the primordials and the titans.  The giants enslaved the dwarves for an uncounted age, before the race revolted and escaped.  In the Feywild, Fomorians (faery counterparts to the giants) enslaved the gnomes (fey versions of dwarves), until many of the gnomes escaped.  Since Rillmorn existed long before 4E and I had no history of the giants enslaving the dwarves, I ignored that backstory.  Now, for the gnomes, I have decided that gnomes were one of the clans of dwarves (there is recorded Rillmorn history for clans of dwarves that have become “sub-races”) and that they were enslaved by the Fomorians.  Uncounted generations of gnomes were the slaves, pets, and experimental subjects of the Formorians and over the ages, the gnomes changed from the dwarves they were to the gnomes they are today.  Eventually, the gnomes were freed when the Fomorians were forced to flee their enemies the Tuatha.  The freed gnomes spread out of the Fey Realm to uncounted worlds, but not Rillmorn…until now. (2014.10.02)

Number 4 is my desire to make gnomes decidedly different than dwarves.  Azer are fire dwarves.  They have strong elemental nature, so what makes them different than gnomes, who have a strong earth elemental nature.  Azer are not related to Paracelsus’ other three elemental types; gnomes are.

Now, we shall see how gnomes play out in my games.

Game On!

Fantasy Races: Design and Development

When one uses the term “race” in modern fantasy, the speaker usually means “species.”  Elves, dwarves, orcs, dragonborn, and humans are all different species; in much modern fantasy, they each have unique, independent creations and evolutions.  Even with the fact each is an independent species, many of them are interfertile and produce viable offspring.  While those more scientifically inclined may promote the term species over race, hominid shape and interfertility really make the common usage more accessible.

Common knowledge of the most recognized of fantasy races, dwarves and elves, can be traced to J. R. R. Tolkien.  I would posit that before the popularity of the Lord of the Rings, the common person did not imagine elves or dwarves in their present images.  Prior to Tolkien most fantasy races were the sanitized, post-Victorian children’s story images.  Now, very few can honestly claim the elves and/or dwarves in their stories or games are free of Tolkienesque influence.  I know I can’t. (2014.09.02)

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson gave gaming what is probably the accepted basic set of races in modern fantasy settings: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, and Humans with two accepted hybrid races Half Elves and Half Orcs.  D&D and other sources of modern fantasy have expanded and experimented with various races over the years.  I, also, have made my own additions to the races collective: The Seven Races of Marn.

Rilmorrin has a myth about the creation of the Seven Races of Marn: Diavla, Dwarves, Elves, Humans, Idré, Kularin, and Orcs.  It says that the Four Elemental Elder Gods aware that the “Time of Humans Rising from the Clay” was nearing decided to create beings in human images.  Ymarza, the water god created Idré with the help of all the younger gods.  Yterga the earth god crafted Elves with the help of the four female elven deities and the Dwarves with the assistance of four male dwarven gods (thus hinting as to why elves are matriarchal and dwarves are patriarchal).  Ythuga created the desert, fire-based Diavla with the assistance of Shayton and Syadeena.  Finally, Ysarka the air god created the winged Kularin from the rising thoughts of the gathered gods and their creations.  A conflict between the Elemental Gods and their sibling Yrthyal led to the creation of the, so called, Dark Races: goblins, trolls, gnolls, etc.  The Orcish god Gargor-Mesh and his mate Lortin-Ac took the remains of Marn and Dark Races killed in the battle and used them to create the Orcs.  This is the basis for the elemental correspondences for the Seven Race of Marn (Diavla – fire, Dwraves – metal, Elves – wood, Humans – All, Idré – water, Kularin – air, and Orcs – None), why all Marn are interfertile, and why orcs can produce viable offspring with any hominid race.  This is my spin on fantasy races.

With that in mind, I’ve been working on gnomes.  There are many clans (sub-races, if you will) of dwarves: Mountain Dwarves – the base stock, Hill Dwarves – dwarves with human blood, Azer – fire dwarves, and Uldra – winter dwarves.  So, what if gnomes are dwarves, but dwarves that have been blended with fey, demonic, and/or angelic bloodlines?  Another option is that gnomes are dwarves with halfling (rock gnomes) and elven ancestry (forest gnomes).  The latter option gives gnomes less of a mystical nature and grounds them more in the world, but I’m inclined to go with the former.  Forest gnomes have dryad or tree spirit ancestry.  Rock gnomes have (I don’t know yet) bloodlines.  Deep gnomes have been infused with earth elemental essence.  This idea lets me grant gnomes a magical nature and engage gnome players in the plots and machinations of their non-mundane relatives.  I’ve got other ideas for gnomes, but I’m still working on them and will likely put them into another post. (2014.09.02)

Sarah McCabe has a very interesting take on the Common Fantasy Races. (2014.10.13)

Game On!