Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why I’m “reanimated”…

    

 So I’ve been trying my hand at this blogging business for a couple of weeks now.  It’s been perhaps a month since I crawled out of my “rat race coma” and remembered how much I loved gaming.  Sure, a great novel or movie was always a beautiful thing, but nothing in my in my life has ever provided me with as satisfying of an escape as role-playing games.

     I will try to give you a snap-shot of when I left.  Magic: The Gathering was relatively new (can remember buying two decks at Gen Con and someone making change for me out of a box).  AD&D was in its 2nd edition but the general thought at the time was that TSR was just cranking out $#%@ for the sake of publishing it.  Planescape was well received but Dragon Dice, and slightly revised rule books had a lot of folks grumbling.

     I hadn’t had a regular gaming group for a while, and both my job and girlfriend were demanding more and more attention.  As much as I hated it, there just wasn’t time anymore to slip off into imaginary worlds.  Before I knew it, I was just done. 

     15 years worth of games dice and miniatures were packed away in boxes and sealed with duct tape.  They remained in those same boxes until 2004.  That fall, I found myself in West Palm Beach, FL and we were hit by hurricane Frances.  I had been through a few storms before, but I ran to Georgia for this one.  Upon my return, I didn’t experience any big loss but did have a window break which promptly flooded my bedroom and soaked the boxes.  I ended up pitching everything but my old AD&D 1st edition books and a couple sentimental favorites.

     Sorry for the reminiscing, this is the first time that all of this has crossed my mind.  At any rate, when I say that I’ve been out of the loop for a long time, I mean it.  I was aware that WotC had purchased TSR and I knew that Dragon, Dungeon, & the RPGA were defunct, but that’s about it.

     In the past month or so I’ve spent my time catching up.  I’ve tried to read every blog, forum, and website that I can find, to kind of get a feel for what’s going on.  At 41, I reckon there’s a whole new generation of gamers out there and I’ve been curious about what they’re up to.  I thought I’d sit down and just share some of the things that I have noticed.

     From my perspective thus far, perhaps the biggest evolution to the hobby has to be the Internet.  The average household simply didn’t have a computer with an Internet connection in the mid-90’s.  If they did, it was likely a 386, running Windows 3.1 with dial-up 2400 CompuServe, Prodigy, or GEnie.

     The gaming community as a whole (but especially RPGs) has an amazing presence online.  It is so easy now to trade ideas and meet new people.  Just today I found a site where you could simply enter your zip-code, to find a group near you.  I understand that most of you “lived” it, in its natural progression.  However, for me to just pop back into the scene and have so much information at my fingertips…I’m just having a ball!

     Play-By-Mail games weren’t terribly common but we were familiar with them.  However, now I see e-mail, forum, and blog based games quite regularly.  On top of that, real-time online gaming with Skype seems fairly popular.

     Self-publishing and the various types of game licensing out there seem to be great for the hobby as well.  Back in the day, I wrote a number of articles for Polyhedron but that was really as far as my time constraints would allow me.  Even the submission process for Dragon or Dungeon took too long, given my day-to-day obligations.  However, now virtually anyone can crank out content, on their own time frame.

     While I’ll likely always have a soft-spot for fantasy settings, I’m thoroughly enjoying all the genres which are represented in modern RPGs.  It’s not simply that they exist but that they seem to have a large fan-base.  I mean even back in the 80s, there were lots of other options but it certainly didn’t seem like they got much love.

     The stigma attached to RPGs seems to have lessened to a great degree.  While I don’t expect that many 16 year-old Dungeon Masters are dating the captain of the cheerleading team, it’s certainly not like it was back in the 80s.  Hell, in 1985 I would have been better off wetting my pants in high school, than admitting to playing Dungeons & Dragons. Peers would completely ostracize you and adults would assume that you were a satan worshipper (thank god I had intelligent parents).  There almost seems to be a “geek chic” thing happening these days.  Finally, not sure whether it’s the chicken or the egg, but there sure seems to be a hell of a lot of female gamers out there now.  That is a very good thing.

     Along the same lines, the popularity of LARPing is new to me.  While it’s not my cup of tea personally, they look like they’re having a lot of fun.  While I imagine it existed back then, I wasn’t aware of it.  Oh, you’d hear about the occasional SCA event but that was about it.  The media had adults so convinced that every child who played RPGs was going to lose his/her mind, that the site of a LARP event would’ve brought out the S.W.A.T team.

     I haven’t been to a convention since getting back into things.  That said, I’m very excited to see how they’ve evolved over the years.  I’ll be running up to Origins in June and I can’t wait.  By the way, if any of you are planning on attending and want to play something or just have someone to browse the dealer’s room with, give me a yell.

     There are just so many exciting things going on now.  I’m thrilled to have my hobby back and truly feel like I’ve been reanimated!

     Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  I just want to end this by saying that these are just my experiences and I realize that it’s a great big world out there.  Anyone reading this may see things entirely differently and I respect that.  If you happen to have any favorite memories from “back in the day” or perhaps questions about what various things were like, please drop off a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

     Good Gaming!

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The Narrs

     It’s likely that upon arriving in the small village of Leatherwood, the party will seek lodging for the night.  The Cross Tree Inn is pretty much the only option in this sleepy, little town.  It’s a warm and welcoming place but largely the same as any number of establishments that they’ve seen.

     Should the party choose to dine or partake in a flagon of ale, they will find themselves seated within the great-room of the inn.  From this vantage point, they will surely notice a curious figure hunched by the fire.  At first it appears to be a man shrouded in shadow.  However, closer inspection shows the man to have ebon skin, only common to the savages from the dark and mysterious jungles, to the south.  The lines in his bald head and silvery beard show that the man is clearly of advanced years.  Garbed in tattered, old robes, he wears any number of odd trinkets and jujus about his person. 

     The curious fellow is sitting and poking at the fire, when the party first notices him.  However, by the time the PCs have had a moment to focus, he turns his gaze to them.  With a subtle gesture, he beckons them closer and then begins to speak, in a soft and cracky voice.

“It was many years ago, when I first heard of the Narrs.  I was new to this land and camped, not a day’s ride from here.  My guide and I sat by the fire and shared a spot of tea.  A night breeze blew through the trees, and his back stiffened as if a chill had run down his spine.  Wrapping his blanket snugly about him, he sat a bit closer to the fire and shared his tale with me.” 

“He was a native to this region, having only strayed away upon becoming a man himself.  The legend goes that there is something odd about the forest around Leatherwood.  As a boy, he had been warned not to stray too deep into the woods, which the villagers called ‘The Narrs’.  Something there just wasn’t as it should be.”

“Some claimed that many years ago, a notorious highwayman had used the woods as his base of operations.  As the story goes, one night he took a fancy to the beautiful daughter of a merchant, whose wagon he had stopped.  The poor, old tradesman refused to leave his daughter behind and a fight ensued.  Scared for her father’s life, the daughter tried to intervene but was killed in the process.”

“Fearing repercussions from nearby villages, the bandit proceeded to kill the merchant as well.  He hid their bodies deep within the forest, where none would ever find them.  It is said that their spirits haunt the forest to this day.”

“Others tell the tale of a maiden who was wronged by a young man, while walking through the Narrs.  They claim that she was so distraught over the attack, that she hung herself out there, rather than returning to the village.” 

“The tragedy of this was so great that it left a shadow upon the very land.  It is as if the trees themselves were affected.  Legend says, they stand silently watching those who pass, guarding the virtue of any young lasses.  To this day, young lovers, are warned to steer clear of the woods, lest they suffer the wrath of the Narrs.”

“There are other tales as well, perhaps more than I could tell.  Are they true, or just the stuff conjured up to frighten children?  Truly, it’s not my place to say.  Just know friends, there is something peculiar about that place.  Be wary if you travel through the Narrs.”

     The old man appears a touch winded by the time that he is finished with his story.  If pressed, he will try to answer a few questions (though he really knows no more than he has said) but his main concern lies with getting himself to bed.

     Whether there is any truth to the old man’s legends really lies with you.  For my campaign, this is purely a red herring.  That said, it is designed to give my “freshly minted” players an opportunity for a bit of role-playing.  I want to fill their heads with the possibilities of what may be out there and get them accustomed to interacting with the townsfolk.

     It is highly probably (80% chance) that any of the inhabitants of Leatherwood will immediately recognize any mention of “The Narrs”.  Most will retell similar versions of the legend to those mentioned by the old man.  However, if you should decide to let them uncover some different information, roll a d6 and consult the legends below.

  1.  “Oh, it’s complete rubbish.  Just tales that the old-timers use to scare small children.”
  2. “A number of young men have gone missing over the years.  I think those, spirits of the woods took them.”
  3. “The trees of the Narrs watch you, as if they are alive.  I’ve heard that they even move about, when no-one is looking.”
  4. “That highwayman was never heard from again, after the disappearance of the merchant and his daughter.  If someone were to stumble upon his hideout, they would likely find his cache of ill-gotten goods.”
  5. “It’s not the trees that you need to be worrying about.  There is some unspeakable creature living within that forest.”
  6. “You are not the first group to come asking about the Narrs.  I recall some queer folk who passed through, a couple of years back.  They were a curious lot.  Not sure whatever became of them though.  A lot of folks pass through here, on their travels. 

          The part of the forest known as “the Narrs” lies along the road, about 9 miles northwest of Leatherwood.  There is no denying that it is a creepy place.  Largely comprised of massive sycamores, it is easy to see how someone could easily dream up all sorts of terrible stories.  With the slightest breeze, odd sounds can me made out, from deeper within the woods.

     Should a party spend any amount of time exploring the area, they will turn up little of interest.  I would suggest rolling a d20 (or whatever would be appropriate for your game system) occasionally, with no result.  I would do this simply to keep the players wondering whether something terrible was about to happen.  However, aside from the occasional sighting of small game animals, nothing of interest will be found.

     Characters with any applicable type of nature or geography skills should easily be able to discern scientific reasons for the apparent “sinister” feel of the place (the taller trees are catching more wind, low elevation at the head of the valley limits the amount of sunlight, etc.).

     For my purposes, I would like the players to get accustomed to the fact that sometimes people are just superstitious, and mundane things can be blown out of proportion.  Despite being in a fantasy setting, there isn’t a dragon hiding around every corner.  Even the slightest investigation should leave them feeling that the whole thing is likely a myth.  Having moved on from this, I will prepare to drop them into the meat of our first adventure.

     Good Gaming!

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Legends & Tales

     Once of the things that I miss the most about the “old days” was the ability to sit back, on a lazy afternoon, and thumb through the pages of DRAGON or DUNGEON magazine.  More often than not, some little article would catch my eye and get my imagination wandering.  After that, it didn’t matter whether I ended up mowing the lawn or going fishing, I still had little “seeds” to be thinking about.

     While working on the campaign, I often pick a few NPCs or areas and try to flesh them out a bit.  At times this will just be a matter of a couple of notes scratched into a sidebar, for others I might write an entire encounter.  This not only makes things more colorful for my players but also gives me something to “pull out of my hat” if I need to stretch a session or fill some time.

     Since I have the blog now, I figured that I would post these here.  My Legends & Tales category will contain different background information for my campaign.  While these may include names of places or events from my campaign, I will try to keep them generic enough so they may easily be sculpted to fit any game.

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