Nerdstalgia

Silvaaris, The Playwright

“AAARRGGGH” The giant roared as his club came swinging down.

Korizan dodged out of the way as he plunged his sword into the creature. The giant staggered back, it knew the end was near.

The giant swung again, this time knocking Korizan down with a crushing blow.

Korizan looked up, dazed. He rolled out of the way before the club could come crashing down on his head.

A loud crackled filled the air as a blue bolt of energy zipped into view. The giant let out a yelp in agony as it crashed down to the ground.

Korizan smiled, Lisus the mage save him yet again with a well placed evocation. The two nodded in appreciation for another battle won. The looked around the scene to find their missing companion. Had he fallen to the giant without them realizing it? Or was he up to his usual tricks?

Lisus looked behind a pile of rubble and saw Silvaaris with his notebook in hand.

“Just a second” Silvaaris said as he scribbled upon his pages.

“Mighty Silvaaris” he wrote down “delivers the death blow and saves Korizan and Lisus from the giants clutches”

“This is going to look great on stage!” he thought.

Character motivation is a bit of a funny thing. Maybe its because I have created so many PCs and NPCs over the years, but I find the usual “Dream of Glory”, “Looking for Money”, or “Out for Revenge”, character concepts to be rather dull at this point in my life. Surely there have to be reasons beyond fame, fortune, or vengeance out there to inspire the host of heroes that we all play. Yet far too often those very superficial and uninspiried tales fill the back-stories of our favourite PCs. Surely we can start coming up with something more interesting than that, right?

That’s were Silvaaris comes in for me. He had dreams of glory, but in a very different way. He never wanted to be known as the greatest hero in the land. Adventure, he thought, was a means to an end. Silvaaris was a bard that I created on time and remains my most favoured character that I’ve ever played, even if he did not last particularly long. He had great ambitions of fame and fortune, but not as a warrior, but as an actor and playwright.

Silvaaris had dreams of writing and performing in the greatest play of all time. It centred around a great adventurer embarking on fantastic voyages and performing heroic feats. However, the problem for Silvaaris was that he had no experience in this field and wanted to make his play as realistic as possible. As such, he decided to set off on a life of adventure and excitement in order to inspire his writings. The lead character in the story would also be named Silvaaris, but that was purely coincidental. It was a common name after all.

The first encounter that the group faced was a run-of-the-mill combat scene. A few goblins or something spring up and try to take on the party to no avail. I scribble down notes of the encounter, claiming (meta-game) to be the note-taker for the party, sinceo ne never knows what will be important later.

I write down the summary of the encounter as follows “Hundreds of golbins emerge. Party begins to panic. Silvaaris issues a commanding and profound speech to calm the party down. People struggle under the horde, but Silvaaris saves the day, single handedly slaying more goblins than he could count”.

Obviously, none of that happened. Silvaaris in fact had a strength of 8 and spent most of the encounter hiding, shotting his crossbow and signing to inspire. Hardly the stuff of legends, but that didn’t matter to Silvaaris, a little artistic freedom was necessary after all.

Sadly though, that evening while Silvaaris was on watch he heard a noise in the bushes. He went to investigate, only to discover a ghoul in the bushes. He rolled away and shot his crossbow (totally Matrix-style) before having the creature lunge at him and eventually tearing him apart.

When they searched my body, the DM forced me to hand over my notes. Which at that point had long filled a page, mostly with talk of how inferior they all were to the mighty Silvaaris. Needless to say the characters weren’t to pleased, but at least the players were.

I had great plans for the rest of Silvaaris adventuring career. I thought that the performance would have been a great role-playing opportunity, and I was really looking forward to getting him to begin method-acting in the middle of adventures. I really wanted to practice soliloquies at very inappropriate and potentially dangerous moments.

But alas, this one ended in a tragedy. It may not have been the story that Silvaaris wanted, but it most certainly is one worth telling.

Until next time,

G

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Nerdstalgia

Lorakin, A Different Kind of Intelligent Sword

“I’m bored.  How much longer do we have to walk?” he asked again.

Korina grunted.  How much more did she have to put up with this?

“I’m bored.  Are we there yet? Do you think there will be any girls at our next stop?”

Thankfully she wasn’t his type.

“I’m HUNNGGGGRRRYYY” he continued.

Korina wondered what it was that he even ate.  She had annoying party members many times, but none like this.
“I want to fight something.  We haven’t done that in a while!”

“That’s it!” Korina exclaimed.  “It’s time for you to take a nap”

“But I’m not tire–“

As a general guideline I tend to steer clear of intelligent items. I don’t have any problem with them game-wise. Sure they can be powerful, but that’s fine with me. I just have a hard time playing one. I have a hard time seeing how something that a truly intelligent object would be so gung-ho to serve and protect whatever shmuck happens to find it. I mean, shouldn’t it have thoughts and feelings of its own? What if it was attached to its old owner, wouldn’t it hate the new one for killing it? What if it like the centuries of solitude inside the dragon cave and hated to be disturbed? Or consequently, what if being alone for so long drove it mad. How would the object react if its owner finds an upgrade and chooses that instead?

Also, and more pragmatically, an intelligent item always has to be on. It’s not like the bartender or prince, who you only need to know how to act for a short amount of time, the character always has this item. They can always ask for its thoughts and opinions, you always have to be ready to act and react according to the character that you create for it. I’ve always been worried that I would more or less get bored of the intelligent item and not want to pay as it anymore.

Now, this is all with one exception, Lorakin, the intelligent sword. But before I get into him, let me give you a bit of a backdrop. There were a few summers where I DMed Brian and Chris in a very laissez-faire style. Basically, those two had more or less separate agendas and I mostly just reacted, often they would be together, but occasionally they would spend days apart doing a variety of different zany adventures. I did very little prep work, considering how often we played. It remains to this day, my favourite campaign (actually two campaigns in consecutive years…but that is mostly because 3rd Edition came out between those year) that I’ve ever been a part of.

Because these two were constantly running around the area doing whatever the hell they pleased, I had to find ways to bring the two of them back together. Usually one of them would come across some zany scheme, and needing backup, they got the other one to come along. Lorakin, was just such a scheme.

I don’t remember exactly how Brian came across Lorakin, but he did. I think that the sword was locked in some vault, in a thieves den that Brian’s character had infiltrated, but I’m possibly wrong about that one. Anyway, that part of the story is not important. What matter is Lorakin himself.

Lorakin was not a traditional, snobby, heroic intelligent sword. In fact he was quite the opposite. He was obnoxious and horny. Yes, you read that correctly, Lorakin’s primary motivations were carnal in nature. I sort of based the character off of an NC-17 version of the Genie from Alladin. He kept yammering on and on about how long his last owner locked him in a trunk for talking too much, and he really had some needs that needed to be address.

Essentially this, but more pointy and innapropriate

He remembered seeing a lovely looking scimitar in the hands of some noble in the next town over. Brian’s character being a charlatan (that is both in profession, and as a Bard Kit) decided to go and relieve this noble of his scimitar, and as much else as he could find. This was just the nobleman who Chris was dealing with for one of his zany adventures. Ta da, problem solved.

Lorakin wasn’t particularly powerful (I think just a measly +1), or knowledgeable, but was particularly annoying, lecherous, and liked to get drunk. But really, if we all have had party members who behaved that way, why is it weird to have weapons act that way?

Until next time,

G

Nerdstalgia

Torjaran, The Rival

The party took a collective breath, they were finally there.  After what felt like months crawling through this dungeon, they have finally reached their goal.  All of the monsters had been vanquished, and all that stood between them and the great Sword of Silthorn was that door ahead.

Ragnor, the strongest and least injured of the bunch, reached forward with trepidation.  He felt the handle of the door around his hand; he was almost there.  Slowly the door creaked open.

In front of them was an all to familiar sight, and their hearts filled with rage.

There standing in front of them was their old rival, Torjaran inspecting the sword.

“Too late yet again” he said as he sheathed the sword and ran off.

I was DMing my cousins a long time ago in a game and I did the very typical plot-hook of an “Adventurer Challenge”. Orcs had been ravaging this town that they came across and so the Mayor tried to call upon all heroes to stop the bandits. There was some cash reward offered to the person who brought back the head of the orc leader. Obviously, I was getting my inspiration from every Gygax-inspired module that I had bought, but hey it was the mid-90s and a much simpler time.

But to make a twist on this, I introduce the PCs to a few extra groups trying to do the same thing. A few groups were pretty run of the mill, you know three to five characters with a mixture of classes and races. But one group was actually a party of one. One snobby character who did not really bother to talk to the PCs or anyone else.

As the PCs got close to the orc lair, they found one of the parties all killed with arrows in their back. They then got to the orc lair at the same time as another party. The two ended up finding the leader at about the same time and had to bargain (in mid-combat) that whoever struck the winning kill got to keep the head. This of course lead to an entertaining battle sequence where the PCs were trying to inflict light damage at first, hoping that the NPCs would soften them up for a few rounds before the party got the death kill.

The two parties were laughing over their battle, and giving well wishes as they returning to town (with the head firmly in control of my cousins), when disaster struck. Arrows began flying all over the place, full of sleep poison. It fell the members of the other party very quickly, and then slowly wore down my PCs enough. As the last one passed out they saw that solitary human, Torjaran, take the head of the orc chieftain.

As the PCs returned to town, this man was celebrated as a hero with parties going on in his honour, for he had stopped the orc threat all by himself, surely he must be a brave soul.

Several adventures later, I had the PCs run into him on an underwater adventure in a sunken ship (full of stale air). As the PCs were ready to kill him, a horde of Sea Trolls began crashing on the outside of the ship. Torjaran pulled out a magical sphere that he said would transport all of them back to the surface, so long as they allowed him to split the treasure in half (one for him, one for them). Seeing little choice, they grabbed what they could and beamed out. (By the way, I made up that magic sphere, I said that there were two matching spheres, and with the right command word it would teleport the two together, but it needed the power of at least two people to work it…really a magical item build for this ethical and character driven dilemma – which brings me to an important aside, never be afraid to stretch the rules or limits of a concept in exchange for a good story, that’s what you’ll remember the most).

Now, sadly the summer (and therefore the game) ended before I could complete the final installment on The Rival Trilogy of adventures. I was going to have him get promoted eventually the the King’s High Court, earning that position by slaying the vicious Green Dragon that had long tormented the countryside. After some investigation, the PCs would find that he had in fact aligned himself with the dragon, and was helping it raid a nearby kingdom instead. The Green Scale shield that Torjaran carried was in fact the scale of a Lizardman, but nobody knew any different. The King would obviously cast Torjaran from his court. Disgraced, he would seek vengeance on the PCs and they would of course defeat him in a very climactic battle.

While of course the PCs are exceptional people in the fantasy world, by no means should they be unique. Obviously there must be some other characters out there who posses a similar talent and thirst for adventure. Obviously not all of them would be as morally virtuous as your characters (hopefully) are. A rival villain only really works if he is several levels higher than the PCs (so that he can defeat them single-handedly at first), and he needs to win. Obviously he can’t win forever, but a few victories over the PCs can go a long way towards establishing motivation.

Remember, characters are used to getting what they want all the time, it’s fun to make them wait for it sometimes. So when you are finally ready to let go of The Rival as a villain, the victory will feel so much better. And after that rival is dead, you can always create another one. Or have him come back from the dead to seek vengeance…but that may be taking it a bit too far.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Torjaran, next time I’ll introduce you to Lorakin, a Different Kind of Intelligent Sword. Trust me, you’ll like this one…

Until next time,

G

Nerdstalgia

Colourful Characters – An Introduction

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As Brian stated a while ago, this blog is under (temporary) new management.  I am Glen, and I seem to be discussed a fair amount around these parts.  I do enjoy making an effort to read this blog, and not just because so many posts are about me, but also because Brian has always had some great insight into the game and has a wonderful imagination.  Oh yeah, and so many posts are about me.

I gave a fair amount of thought (read:   four to seven minutes on the toilet) as to what I would post here in Brian’s absence.  I thought about posting about Dark Sun, but I do have some hesitations about it.  Most of the games I ran on Athas were pretty early in my DMing days, and many of the adventures weren’t exactly cutting edge or new.  I love the setting and the concept, but to be perfectly honest, it never fully inspired me as a DM.  Now I don’t mean that as an insult at all.  I really don’t think that I have ever been truly and fully inspired by any campaign setting.  Dragon Lance, seemed to set in stone,  Forgotten Realms seemed too generic, and Ravenloft never quite gave me the jolt that I needed.  I think that I need a world unto my own.  A canvas to cover with my nerdy ambitions.

This is one of the reasons that I jumped so eagerly at joining Brian for our little side project, ahem…FuckedWorld (his title, not mine).  I love to create things of my own.  But Brian and I different in our approaches to world design.  He is very good at created broad, sweeping worlds with long tumultuous histories, and tomes of legends and lore for this new fictional place.  My style on the other hand is much simpler.  I figure out the place that I want to set the first dozen or so adventures, and build around that.

Wow…I just re-read what I’ve written so far, and I’m really starting to veer off topic.  I guess Brian’s tangential writing style is contagious.

Anyway, because I tend to think small in my campaign designing, I think that I am very good at creating something as a DM, recurring characters.  I tend to be pretty good at inventing entertaining and engaging characters that the PCs bump into time and time again.  I think that this is a very important step in building an interesting and interactive game world.  They also provide excellent motivation and hooks for adventures.  PCs are far more likely to jump to the aid of an elderly man that has sheltered them time and time again, than some randomly generated innkeeper.

So I have prepared to introduce you to four friends of mine in the coming days.  Sure they may be fictional, but that doesn’t stop them from being awesome.  They are an adventuring rival, a different kind of intelligent sword, an egotistical playwright, and a gnome who has had his sanity blown away to the wind.  All of these characters have been used in a campaign by me at one point or another (one in three separate campaigns actually).  They have all been a great pleasure to know over the years, and I hope that you enjoy their company in the coming days as well, and perhaps get to know them in a fantasy world near you.

Until next time,

G