Sunday, October 21, 2012

Unfinished Tales

"This is my story." - Tidus, Final Fantasy X

I'm starting to hit that point where I'm having too many adventure/story ideas and not enough time to play them.  My original group has kind of disbanded, and I have a lot of trouble locking onto a third player.  If I could have at least three, I'd feel a lot more comfortable about running a stable game.  I'm not upset about my lack of games, just frustrated because I have plenty of ideas and themes I would like to explore.

In my last post, I wrote about the Notebook, a project my friends and I started back when I was in high school.  It was basically diceless DnD, except it had a lot more character interaction and a lot less combat.  Even though it has been a number of years since we've actually had a Notebook, the ideas and adventures we did have really have resonated with me.  I would love to start fleshing them out as adventures to either re-play, or as places to visit sometime in the near future.

I was able to re-visit my old character Kurnar Leafbaum in a DnDNext playtest.  I made an elf fighter who was a sharpshooter, since that was how the character was originally.  His Charisma was low due to his arrogance, though he was a Noble so he got some help to his social skills.

My other friend, Kyle, was able to take his 4E character, Krenlor and build himself a DnDNext version.  Kyle's only lament was that there weren't any minor fire spells, since Krenlor specializes in fire magic.

Kurnar and Krenlor
My little brother played a human swashbuckler named Dax.  Dax's big problem was that he ran into many rooms and fell into pits, got swarmed by rats, and basically spent most of the playtest session sitting out.  He was also extremely lucky that the kobold dragonshields weren't able to coup de grace him.

Rats!  There's a huge dire rat too.
While the playtest was most about the rules and examining the kind of play everybody enjoys, it really makes me want to play as Kurnar in a group.  And by that I mean have a person DM while I get to sit and play.  There are a lot of adventure ideas I have for Kurnar, and I would love for him to get the chance to explore and fighter, all the while being arrogant and proud.  Flaws are what make the story interesting.

At the end of the summer, I wrote a post about the continent of Vellyn.  All my players were super excited about this campaign, and the campaign world, but unfortunately, the campaign didn't work.  Let me explain.

I live about 25 miles away from where I work.  Most of the group lives right by where I work.  So, as the DM, I would need to transport everything I need to each session.  My one player had an apartment with a giant table that would've worked perfectly.  Unfortunately, he had a huge issue with his schooling and got switched to a night class on the day that we were all going to choose to play.  I thought the issue would be resolved, but it never did.  We tried to put together a session in the local university's library, but the room was cramped and the table was small.  It just didn't work out well (although we had a great session).

This was the small room we played in and the small table we played on.
 So what does this all mean?  I had a great story, and honestly had great players.  They were super involved and really care about who they were playing.  My friend Sara was a girl named Narcissa, who was found alive yet frozen in a block of ice.  She has no idea who she is or where she is from.  Sara really got into this entire role.  She bought special dice, asked a lot of background questions for Narcissa, and really played the character well.  I spent my brainstorming time coming up with all the answers to Narcissa's past and was looking forward to either revealing them in December or next April.  Unfortunately (for now) that has to be put on hold.

Narcissa (upper left) and Dashvert (far right) try and survive a yeti siege

At this point, this blog probably sounds like a lot of excuses for why my campaigns failed.  Maybe it is.  To me, it's kind of nice just to write these thoughts out, as I'm sure this is an issue many people struggle with.  I've been listening to Behind the DM Screen, a podcast where three DM's chat about their campaigns and give advice to one another.  One guy is lucky to play once a month, and the other guys kind of harass him about it.  However, I'm starting to believe that once a month may be a norm for some people.  Life can get pretty hectic.

So for now, I don't plan on campaigns.  I plan on one shots, like playtests or one night dungeon crawls.  Expect to explore, fight monsters and save the princess in the cave.  Don't expect to unravel the mysteries of the kingdom or anything huge.  I have to turn down my story scope and instead just focus on the joy of getting to play.

A scene from a Vellyn dungeon I planned but never got to play.
I believe that I will be campaigning again very soon.  At the very least, maybe I will hear back about some of the pitches I submitted and will get to playtest that stuff.  With the few friends that are able (and still want to) play, they mostly care about getting to pretend to be their favorite character, not whether their character becomes the greatest wizard of all time.  And I really need to remember that.  Because one of the things I've learned as a DM is that it's pretty easy to have fun if your players are enjoying themselves.


  1. I really appreciate where you are coming from. Finding a good group and playing through a campaign is the sweet spot of gaming. Too often that is a short experience, but still one to treasure and look forward to!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I think that after Gen Con and getting my first article done, there were a lot of high points. Now I'm kind of in a slump trying to get stuff together, which I'm sure happens from time to time. I figure I'll just keep contributing/getting involved in the community and things will pick back up here soon enough with the holidays and more down time. We'll see.

      I still have a ton of ideas, so I plan on sharing some of that stuff with other people here. I'm looking forward to next week's blog, about putting music in the game.