Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Few Words About Myself

"Who are you? I really wanna know."
 - Who Are You, The Who

Last week I interviewed Teos Abadia.  He answered seven questions for me, then suggested I answer the seven questions I gave him (slightly altered) about myself.  So, here we go!

1. What's the origin of the ArtificerAlf name?
When I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons, the first class I played was an artificer.  I thought it was fun making potions, items, and magic weapons.  When I started the blog, I wanted a cool sounding name that reflected my first experiences with the game.  For some reason, Artificer's Intuition jumped into my head.  I think I was subconsciously influenced by the Magic the Gathering card of the same name.  When I joined Twitter, the name @artificersintuition was too long, so I went with a nickname I've had all my life, based off my middle name.  The name was Alf (some have said I look remarkably like Gordon Shumway, but that has nothing to do with how I got my nickname).  From there @artificeralf was born.

2. What about the Feywild makes it your favorite plane/setting for a D&D adventure?
The first D&D book I ever purchased was the 4E Monster Manual.  Through my initial read/flip through, I noticed how every creature had a different origin.  As I continued to read, I noticed that a lot of my favorite creatures (elves, satyrs, dryads) all had the fey origin, meaning they hailed from a plane known as the Feywild.  As I learned more and more about the game and the various planes, the Feywild seemed the most interesting.  When I first read the Prince of Frost ddi article, I thought it was the greatest D&D lore I had ever read.  It inspired me to try and create a campaign around the character.  I bought 4E's Manual of the Planes just to read the Feywild chapter and get more information.  Needless to say, I was extremely excited for the Heroes of the Feywild book, just for a chance at some more Feywild-centric art and information.

I always found the concept of the Archfey and the Court of Stars fascinating, and was always on the lookout for snippets about them.  I had spent some time brainstorming some ideas about them, and was extremely excited when The Trinket Lord was accepted as a proposal and later published.  I am proud (and humbled) to have help create an Archfey and another permanent addition to the lore of Dungeons and Dragons.

3. How did you get into Dungeons and Dragons?
Back in February of 2010, I was at home on college spring break.  I was seeking internships with various companies, and in extreme pain due to rheumatoid arthritis which had struck from nowhere.  I was not in very good spirits, and felt pretty discouraged.  I was in constant pain, could barely move, and I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to go anywhere job wise.

One of my friends was back from his school on the other side of the state.  His roommates were into the game, and he wanted our group of friends to start playing as well.  I told him I had no idea about the game, but I would definitely give it a try.  I used the free character builder, and built a goblin artificer, as it seemed interesting and off-the-wall, even though I had no idea what I was playing.

We played a week later.  At this point, I had been to the doctor (before they knew what was wrong with me), and gave me some steroids to try and "re-align" my system.  I would be on steroids for a week, and during that time, I felt no pain and was completely myself again (for a week at least).  I spent all Saturday taking the steroids at the intervals I was supposed to.  By the evening, I was able to move without pain and felt like my normal self again.  This was the time that we were first supposed to play D&D.

I went to my friend's house, and we all gathered around.  One of my other friends, Peachey, had grown up playing D&D with his uncle and brought all sorts of books and modules.  We started by playing The Sunless Citadel theater of mind, with a few crude maps and dice to represent certain tactical layouts (when needed).  We met Meepo the kobold, and we were off and running.  We were running 4E characters for an adventure of a different edition.  It really didn't matter that much, since none of us knew that At-Will powers were allowed to be used all the time.  They just seemed so magical and awesome.

We played until about 1:30ish, at which point I drove back to school.  Due to the steroids, I was wide awake and pumped.  My creative ideas were back (they had be frozen at the end of high school to junior year of college), and all of a sudden, I felt renewed.  I wanted to keep playing this game.

The rest of that semester was torturous for me.  The steroids were eventually done, and the arthritis pain came back.  By the end of March I received my diagnosis.  I slept all the time and lost a ton of weight.  Thank goodness my genetics class was online, as that made my time easier.  Walking to class was a struggle.  Yet because of D&D, I had an escape.  I could think about the last game I had played.  I could think about one coming up.  I fleshed out my character.  I watched the Robot Chicken D&D Games on youtube.  I let myself be creative.

Three years later, I'm fine.  My arthritis is under control, and I can run and play frisbee and do all the activities I enjoy doing.  The thing is, I still remember those first few D&D games I played where I didn't know any of the rules and just played for the sake of story, feeling wonder, mystery and awe as I escaped from the issues I was facing at the time.

4. What's your D&DNext play experience been like?
I've written a few times about my experiences with the different playtests, so I'll give a quick summary about what I played.  In the first packet, my friends and I took turns running different encounters to get a feel for the monsters/combat and the different classes.  The next playtest, I played a character and DM'ed as we explored the Caves of Chaos for a bit.  Lastly, I ran the largest playtest I've done so far, a gigantic, 8 hour playtest involving me converting the Evil Tide adventure for play.  Ultimately, I'm happy with a lot of the small things, like Level 1 heroes can still hit a dragon, and the emphasis on storytelling and outside of combat abilities.  I don't think I'm great at determining if damage output is too high, or if monsters are too bad and the like.  I just try to focus on telling the stories I want to tell.  Generally, that always works out fine.

5. Who is your favorite D&D character you have played?  What made them special?
I would have to say my favorite character is my goblin artificer, Kov Nitikki.  This was a character that the rest of my group hated, simply because he was a goblin and was trying to help out his clan-mates and make people want to help goblins more.  The rest of my friends could care less about him, but the little guy was always healing them and sticking his nose out for them.  He once used his action point to grant an ally a saving throw against domination!  Despite all this, he was always a repugnant little stinker to everybody else.

I also enjoyed that he was an alchemist and an artificer.  Both things allowed him to tinker and build and carry large amounts of vials and components on his bandolier.  Out of all the characters in our adventuring party, he always had the most gear, the majority of it mundane, simply because he was always trying to be prepared.

6. What happened in the best D&D session that you've ever run?
In December of 2010 (not even having played D&D for a year at this point), my friends decided they wanted to play a big game while everybody was home for Christmas break.  Our DM up until that point decided to bail on us.  With nobody else wanting to take the mantle of DM, I volunteered.

Fall of 2010 was a great time for me as a new D&D player.  I got the DM Kit, the Monster Vault, and tons of poster maps and tokens.  I had also purchased a box of dungeon tiles that I meant to give to my DM as a Christmas gift.  However, before I gave them to him, my DM said he didn't like Dungeon Tiles and didn't think they were a good idea.  So, I figured I would keep them for myself.

And so, while trying to figure out what kind of adventure I would piece together for my players, I sat down at my ping pong table opening The Dungeon master tile set and trying to piece together various puzzles, encounters, and story for my players for that evening.  I called my friend P@ and asked a few questions about his character in order to get some motivation.  From there, I put the rest of the story together.

The session ended up being one of the best ones we ever had.  The Dungeons Tiles were new and fresh.  The players never knew what to expect.  The group started roleplaying, as P@ took the lead and actually became his character.  They found treasure.  They had epic fights against blazing skeletons, and a carrion crawler that climbed walls.  At the end of that night, my players all said they had a blast, and that this was probably one of the best games they had ever played up until that point.  It was then I thought I might be able to be a good DM (with a lot more practice and work of course!).  Up until then, I didn't really know what to think about my storytelling capabilities.  Having a good session can create a ton of confidence.

7. What is your favorite Dungeons and Dragons monster?
I think dragons are obvious, and I've written about sahuagin so much lately that there's no real reason to re-state it.  However, there is another monster I've really liked that I haven't written about a lot.
The hag.
To me, hags make great villains.  They shapeshift, so they could be any NPC at any place, following the players and learning whatever they need to learn.  I also like the thought of them using and creating scarecrows.  In 4E, they have the fey origin, meaning they hail from the Feywild, my favorite plane.  The hag just makes for a great enemy with a lot of connections, and the story potential is endless (for me at least).

Hope everybody enjoyed having me answer some questions about myself!  Leave your comments below, and be sure to follow me @artificeralf

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