Friday, July 1, 2016

Adventurer's Guild - The Starting Blocks

At the starting blocks, the 'crew' numbered about 8 gamers wanting to have Saturdays seems more lively.  I was running a campaign that had reached its 2 year mark, but I was feeling a bit in a rut and needed fresh blood spilled.  To reinvigorate myself, and the Saturday D&D events, we launched into a new world of randomness.  This grew from the seed that is Adventurer's League and Pathfinder Society, and the heart of what they could offer.  The concept of short adventures that wrap up in one session, have the chance to pick between the possible adventures, and have a shared world while all these shenanigans take place.  An ADVENTURER'S GUILD one might say.  So, where to start?

First, I would like to address why D&D 5E.  I appreciate a balanced game.  D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder have advanced beyond the balanced realm with the plethora of material available.  Don't get me wrong, this is great when everything can potentially be overpowered and min/max can be accepted as a usable character build.  There can be balance within either system, but it takes a ton of effort and DM management to make it happen.  5E may not be the best answer, as some people are not as pleased with the product, but it works well and has been a great system from all my recent adventuring (which includes DMing the starter box adventure (The Lost Mines of Phandelver), the new hardback modules and Adventurer's League modules).  The character builds are simple once you know the paragraph structure in the Player's Handbook, and you can fly through them pretty quickly.  We also know why 4E was not on the table.  It is great for miniature and MMO style playing aspects, not so good for worldbuilding and role-playing.  It does have its good qualities, just not as an RPG that everyone has become familiar with.  (I suggest checking out the board games made during this time with 4E rules.  they are great fun, and you will understand and possibly admire the 4E mindset!!!)

Ok, moving on.  With some of the crew being old school gamers, we wanted to go in a more fluid direction, with chances of having extra weakness and the possible ability score deficiencies.  The 5E spread offered of 15 - 14 - 13 - 12 - 10 - 8 has worked splendidly with all the previous builds and seems to be the best choice for character creation.  But we wanted more!  So we went with the 4d6 and drop the lowest.  This allowed for a wider range of character stats and diversity among the characters.  As a side, even though this does well for higher results in normal circumstances, the starting characters were not so pretty.  Time for some clever role-playing... which was the point anyways.

One my side as the first DM to open the flood gates, we needed a playground.  So I surfed the web for a possible starting point.  Understand, I have a campaign setting that is being built as you read this (The Chronicles of Ballidrous), I wanted to make this seem slightly detached as other people will be contributing their ideas and adventures to the mix.

And I found....

(Maxime Plasse, 2015)

Red Turban Press has a setting for the Cloak & Coin RPG.  The map by Plasse demonstrates an eye for cartography as well as having a strong nomenclature, love the names.  With an anthropological background, language is very important aspect when creating a particular quality for a campaign setting.  Red Turban Press is in the midst of building this setting, and I cannot wait to see what they create.

Then comes the hard part, how to build these adventures and the proper structure to create a balanced format.  I dropped a town on the road south of Faeil Dair, knowing I wanted to start small and have the players work towards a larger city.  Again with the random aspect of this start, I found a Random City Map Generator on Inkwell Ideas.  Thus, the birth of Bora Sadir ("The Green Spires").  The maps generated may seem to lack pizzazz, but you must overlook this as it has clean features and the ability to keep producing something new to work from at a later date.

For the character origins, what better place than to ride that trope we all love to hate (especially me).  We need a lovely orphanage for all the destitute wannabe adventures to come from.  So I found this hidden gem, Orphanage Name Generator from the Fantasy Name Generators website.  The Honey Drop Orphanage was now a landmark for Bora Sadir.

And then for the final launch into adventuring, a random inn generator.  There is a special site that I have found useful a number of times in my recent DMing years, donjon.   They have a useful Random Inn Generator.  This is where I found some healthy rumors and a waitress that ended up being a girlfriend to one of the players.

As you can see, the internet can be your friend when working on a gaming project.  I am thankful to all those responsible, for their many hours, to put out such useful tools.  With all this collected material to start the setting, I now have a place and direction for the characters.

- James S. Austin

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Adventurer's Guild - Birth of the Guild

(Concept Art for Diablo III)

The birth of an idea seems to be out of necessity as much as a need for something more.  Let me tell you, this is on a whole new level of birthing.  Something spewed forth from the abyssal minds of a few, with legs and arms kicking and screaming.

This project was started at a local game store (LSG) as a way to expand on our Dungeons & Dragons 5E events.  Don't get me wrong, we spent a long stretch on the Adventurer's League, but it was lacking in some areas.  To be more precise on a few major reasons, some adventures appeared to have been quickly written and, to no fault of their own, having a linear path.   

Horde of the Dragon Queen had its moments but was a little unrealistic for me as a DM looking out at the players.  The start was my first stumbling block.  How is it a group of 'green' adventurers would feel any compulsion to enter a town that is ablaze and a dragon circling the keep?  Sorry.  I, at most, would stay and watch until the coast was clear before running in. You have to understand, I started at an early age and was heavily influenced by 2nd Edition.  There is a thing that all players should know and respect - DRAGON FEAR.  I respect this fear, even as a DM.

Now this isn't to say that the module should be dismissed for my opinion on its deficiencies.  There are plenty of things inside that will create great stories for later.  Again, so not to spoil too much, the first stretch is a gauntlet of encounters that the players must make their way through before ever getting a long rest, which makes for a thrilling piece.  Each group will play it different, so could also be disastrous.  My players know that you don't blow all your wad in the first encounter (again... 2nd edition), so they showed a little restraint and resilience to make it through.  I could also see this going another direction, and not in a pleasant way.

So here we are, and me writing this blog/memoir/info piece.  I want other gamers out there to see a birthing of something that may either prosper or drown in a vat of unmanageable acid.

- James S. Austin