Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wyrminghall Campaign Info

Here I am trying to blog while my buddy Pat has put on the RiffTrax version of the Star Wars Holiday Special.  I haven't seen this thing in its entirety since the original broadcast.  Anyway, I wanted to talk today about my new FLAILSNAILS game.  Here are the basic details.

  • We'll begin with some standard dungeoneering.
  • The game will run from about 4 to 6 am Central Time (UTC -6) on Fridays.  Please don't sign up if you aren't regularly available during this time.
  • Since this is a FLAILSNAILS game, you can import some sort of terrible PC from other games.  PCs above 3rd level will be subject to the standard FLAILSNAILS handicapping chart.  Or you can make a PC of your own using the rules below.
  • The rules will be based upon Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  A free no-art version of the Rules & Magic book is available for download here.  For those unfamiliar with LotFP, it's not that different from D&D Basic/Expert.
    • Since the setting is pseudo-historical (mid 12th century England plus elves), some items on the standard LotFP price list are not allowed.  I'll get a revised price list up eventually, but for now the key item is no plate armor of any type.  (FLAILSNAILS visitors wearing platemail may find their armor subject to Chronotonic Degradation, whatever that means.)
    • Clerics must pick a religious affiliation that they obsessively champion: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Satanism, and Paganism are all legit options.
    • MU's and Elves must pick a starting Blasphemy.  This is some sort of idiosyncratic, heretical belief about the universe.  Basically all arcane casters are cosmic conspiracy nuts.
    • Fighters can begin play as Knights if the player so desires.
    • Halflings are ridiculously, horribly French.
  • Interested?  To get into the player pool, fill out this brief Google Form.  On Wednesday or Thursday I'll contact some folks from the pool to put together a party.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Timeliness is next to Godliness

One of the most mocked and most important lines in the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide is “YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT” (page 37).  

This is one of those great moments when Uncle Gary speaks directly to us, the Dear Readers.  It is also one of the places where EGG breaks out the dread ALL CAPS.  Two more good examples of the latter can be found on page 39, where we find the rule that PC magic-users gain “1 (and ONLY 1) spell” when they level up and that hench-MU’s will “ABSOLUTELY REFUSE” to share spells.  I’m also fond of the all caps Afterword on page 230.  You might have missed that bit, as it is right above that charming succubus drawn by Darlene Pekul.

Anyhoo, today I want to yank out two words from the above all caps sentence to focus on: meaningful and strict.  I feel if that line is to be anything more than throwaway Gygaxian bloviating, then we need to parse out those two words in particular.

How does one have a meaningful campaign?  I think there are two main ways of answering that question.  The first is to do the artsy-fartsy thing, weaving a big theme into your campaign.  Despite my use of the term “farsty” I am totally on board with this sort of thing, providing one aspires to grand themes while at the same time making sure to leave room in the campaign for regular type players.  But then, I‘m perfectly happy having Johnny Beat-Up-The-Orc play at my table.  If you only want roleplaying artistes in your superthematic game then you’re probably better off running Nobilis or Dogs in the Vineyard or whatever game the cool experimental rpg folks are up to nowadays.  (Don’t let me talk you out of running D&D as hippy-dippy performance art if that’s what you really want.  Just warn players ahead of time, please.)

But that’s not the kind of meaning I think Gygax is going for in his declaration about time in the campaign.  I suspect he meant something much simpler and more fundamental about player agency in roleplaying games.  Meaning in this sense is created by player choice leading to comprehensible (if not always expected) consequences.  Keeping track of time allows for the natural unfolding of those consequences, whether we are talking about short term items, like a torch going out, or medium term, like lycanthropy or some other dungeon-induced disease, or long term, like building a castle or the aging rules catching up with you after your consistent, ridiculous abuse of the haste spell.

Now let’s talk about the strict part.  Sometimes when reading the DMG the trick is grokking the general principle and ditching Gary’s idiosyncratic execution.  So maybe the one day between sessions = one day of campaign time rule doesn’t fit your campaign.  Chuck it out.  But the basic concept, that you need some standard of how time flows in your game, remains valid.  Pendragons use of one year per session proves that other standards work well to produce different kinds of meaning.  Since I like to roll dice, I’m considering d6 weeks between sessions for my next campaign.

This illo (DMG p 36) has very little to do with the blog entry.  It’s just the pic nearest the passage I yammer on about in this post.  I like to imagine the guy in the chainmail is saying to these guys “Dude!  Be my henchman and you get your choice of either of these super sweet longswords as a signing bonus!”  Beardy McDarkeyes is clearly tempted, but Moptop Jones seems nonplussed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


So I've got a serious offer to write a second dungeony dragony type book, even though the first one is still delayed.  (I've seen a sample of the new layout and a draft of the cover and they are both hella sweet, by the way.)  I don't feel right talking about the business details of the new thing, except to say that if I were to take this offer, here are the things that would have to come together for me:

1) The book would have to overlap with my research interests here at school.  So either a Wessex book or a book in which Romantic poets beat up goblins.  The former would be a hex-and-key, hey have some dungeons, and treasures and whatnot book.  The latter would be more like what if Masks of Nyarlahotep was set in 1816 London.  I'm up for either but I have a LOT of material already for Wessex and since my classes next semester are set to kick my ass*, I should really choose the path of least resistance.

2) I told my new player group that if I take this gig the system and setting will be determined by my writing needs and most of them were cool with that.  So I've got the green light from them.

3) As I've been thinking this through I've come to the conclusion that I need to get back in the saddle with respect to blogging and flailsnailing (yes, it's a verb now).  But I can't do this without all y'all backing me up.  I need some cool peoples to step up and promise to give me sixteen shades of hell if I let a week go by without a blog post of some kind or two weeks without running a game online.  I probably don't have time to follow the sweet new releases or to keep up on the gossip, but I am going to make time for the thing itself.

So that's the deal.  New Wessex stuff, a new dungeon, new blog posts, as long as you promise to hassle me if one week from today there is no new post or if I haven't run a game in 2 weeks.

*In my program only a fool takes two PhD seminars in one semester and I am that fool come January.