Monday, August 31, 2009

Castles & Crusades and the Benefits of One Session Adventures

I finally get a day off to do some writing and I've done nothing. Here I have all this time on my hands and I haven't written except for the few blogs I commented on. I passed the time by listened to the latest RPG Circus, which was pretty good and watched an episode of Big Bang Theory which I'd seen at least three times before. What I should be working on is the Castles & Crusades adventure I've been writing and planning for a month or more now. I'm blogging to get my creative juices flowing and my fingers moving.

The first leg of the adventure is written. Just need to do some edits and waiting for a few art pieces. The second leg is laid out and the writing begun, but this is where I am stalled. The third leg, the climax is outlined just waiting to be written. The goal is to build three connecting adventures where each part can be played in a single session. A single session to me is a three hour time period. That's about what I try to limit my sessions to unless we are in the middle of a grand daddy of a brawl.

There has been a resurgence of 'mega-dungeons'. And I love the thought of a sprawling dungeon that has hundreds of levels and thousands of rooms, but in my game, it's not practical and it gets boring after a while. It's like a movie where every scene there is a fight or some kind of violence going on. It may be powerful and thoughtful in the beginning, but after a while you grow numb. Please don't think I am bashing mega-dungeons because I am not. In my writer's mind's eye, when I imagine the depths and countless passages and rooms and horrible creatures hunting one another it is awesome to think about.

A while back I bought a few books from a d20 game called Dungeon World. It is basically a game that is one entire dungeon. This may not be the greatest example since the game itself is not good. It reminds me of the old TSR modules where rooms and monsters are static, waiting for the players to arrive to activate them. I can't imagine trying to detail the interaction between the rooms and levels of a mega dungeon. I know Fight On! was putting out different levels of a big dungeon, not sure if it qualifies for a mega-dungeon. How big does a dungeon need to be to qualify as a mega dungeon? It all sounds fun, but tedious after a while and then the players start the dreaded grind. Meaning, the players aren't paying attention to details, they just repeat a checklist of actions.

My preference for now, which could change by Thursday, is the smaller scale adventures with a good story line. Or at least I hope a good story line. It allows me as a GM (or CK if you prefer) to develop back stories for the characters and the campaign. To help the players develop their characters with details and choices made early on. It gives the players short term goals to achieve and keeps them engaged. It allows the player's the shape the world in small areas, as simple as saving a village, but no less important for those villagers who are now an ally of the characters which may become important later on.

Hope my rambling made some sort of sense. My fingers are loosened up and I'm ready to get to work on part 2. The first part of the adventure I hope to have up by this weekend.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gamers Closet

My friend Dwayne, the third in our group including me and Rob (Bat in the Attic), has finally opened up his spot on the blogosphere at Gamer's Closet. He is going to cause trouble, but that's okay because he knows what he is talking about. Well, most of the time. Should be interesting.

Elf Storage

Are you finding yourself up to your ears in pointy ears? Are you tired of tripping over bows? Or being looked at with moody, self important expressions? Then I have the place for you. Elf Storage. Clear out the trees in your yard, your backroom, or garage. Get the elves out of your place and into storage. Let us take care of them for you. For only $50 a month we have a storage unit that holds 20 elves. For larger tribes we have storage units to suit your needs at affordable prices. They'll be here when you need them.

Elf Storage, immortal storage at affordable prices.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So You Think You're a Hardcore Gamer?

All you hardcore gamers out there take a look at these beauties, two gold six siders with diamonds pips. For only $11,000 you can roll up characters guaranteed never to critically fail in style.

The only problem I see is I would need a third die. Maybe they would let me get the third one for only five grand. Here's the A La Vieille Russie website. They have a ton of very cool items for much, much money. This place is filled with items that give me ideas for artifacts and magic items. Sometimes I am such a gamer doof.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Critical Hit Table(s)

Over at the Grand Tapestry, Timeshadows has been discussing what kind of critical hit table she should use. I voted for a descriptive table. Since the group I game with play GURPS so we use their critical hit table. It has got to be the worse crit hit table of all time. The majority of your crit hits will do normal damage only. How boring. At minimum I think a crit hit should do double damage. And if the system allows it, have some type of effect.

I dug around in my ancient vault of gaming stuff and found the critical hit table the group I played with loved. I still think it's the best table. It says First Book of Dragonquest, Page 28 across the top. I don't remember ever having or playing Dragonquest or any of my friends having it yet it is the best Grevious Wound collection. This kind of crit table will only work with non specific hit location combat. If your system (like GURPS) has you aiming at body parts then it won't fit.

Here are a few of my favorite although all of them have a sarcastic Monty Python tone to them and you can't have enough sarcastic Brits in your game. #10 Your aorta is severed and you are quite dead. Rest assured your compatriots will do their best to console you widow(er). #13-14 On a roll of 1, the weapon has entered your brain and terminated your miserable existence. One wound will make you look more roguish and increase your attractiveness. But when we used this table the favorite would seemed to be, not the instant killers, but #98-00, crushing the pelvic bone. For some reason we all thought that was the funniest. I have no idea why now.

Also, when I was digging through my ancient vault of gaming stuff I found (I believe) is the original critical hit table that came with the first d30s. Someone out there correct me if I am wrong. d30s were cool when they first came out, but the damn things would never stop rolling.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Potato Man is Back!

Last night I dragged my butt over to my gaming/writing shelf (more on that in my next post) and grabbed my novel and started working on it again. The 'Bad Guys' must have heard or saw and they have released the Potato Man. His wounds are bandaged and he is recovering nicely. As you can see in the photo below his spirits are good and his is gaining his strength back. But there is no sign of Sid, Vicious, or Chet as of yet. And now they are threatening my gaming books. For the love of all the d20s in all the world will these villians ever stop. And as I write this I hear a whisper from behind me that says, "No."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hi. My Name is Tim and I am an Addict.

The new Pathfinder Core Rulebook is big enough to kill a goblin in one swat. If that's not enough reason to buy this beast then how about the incredibly detailed artwork generously distributed throughout its 575 pages. I stand corrected. This book could kill a bugbear with one crushing blow.

I debated on buying Pathfinder. I never played 3.5 D&D. I recently downloaded the free PDF for Swords & Wizardry, building adventures for Castle & Crusades, researching OSRIC, watching the dust gather on my 4th ed. D&D books, reading Pendragon, and playing 4th ed. GURPS. So why do I need another system? I don't know. It's not like a play every night. The bad part is I am thinking of buying HackMaster Basic.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Room Description

Room descriptions basically break down into two categories; one being a static setting the other of course would be a kinetic setting. It's an over simplification, but I'm willing to work with it. A kinetic room's description will be altered by the players' actions before they interact with the room. A chamber full of goblin will not stay preserved in a described position if the party starts bashing a door down. A static room's description remains the same until the players' interact with the room. A magical fireball trap set to toast the first player through the door will not care if the party is high-fiving and slapping each other on the asses in a nearby room.

With each category of room there are two levels observation, the perception of the room and the truth of the room. Upon entering a room the GM describes the room with details important and unimportant. As the party interacts with the room the truth is revealed depending on the skill levels of the party and actions taken.

The following room description is the perception of a static setting.
The party opens the heavy wooden door into a 10'x30' room lit by a series of three bracketed torches on the north wall. A jumble of sacks and wicker baskets lay against the south wall. At the far end of the room appears to be a white marble statue of woman with six arms wielding a sword in each hand. A necklace of human sized skulls hangs over her bare breasts. From the waist down her human body turns into a snake. Her serpentine lower half is coiled around a pedestal. On the pedestal is a silver orb. There are no apparent exits.

This is a basic room description with dimensions, an inventory of the obvious items in the room and details of the more interesting items. There are four basic components to the room.
1. The torches.
2. The sacks and baskets.
3. The statue.
4. The silver orb.

This is the initial perception of the room. Not the players begin to interact with the room, gathering information and the truth of the room begins to develop.

1. The torches. The middle torch bracket can be pulled down and a secret passage slides open. Simple, but everyone loves a secret door.
2. The sacks and baskets have grain in the bottom. So somewhere close there is an inhabitant that needs to eat. It eats grain so it will be fairly intelligent and not a mindless monster want to eat your heads. At least not without sautéing it in garlic and onions first.
3. When is a statue just a statue? In fantasy gaming not too often. They are a favorite guard dog in dungeons. This little beauty is here to defend the orb.
4. The silver orb is the true interest in the room. Is it magical? Is it just a large round silver ball? Is it a silver dragon egg? Maybe it's just a painted wooden ball. In this case it is an Orb of Warning. The orb is activated if removed or knocked off the pedestal. It will emit a loud screeching noise alerting the grain eaters nearby.

Our next setting will be the kinetic room. The first description will be if the players managed to mute the orb or left it alone.

After traveling through the secret door the party reaches a set of four stairs that leads down into room flickering with bright firelight. Several gruff voices can be heard from inside. Most speak common others are speaking orc. The smell of roasted meat and beer fill the area. Inside the room the players see eight men sitting around a table eating. All are wearing battered leather armor and some wear weapons and others are leaning against the wall. Two women servants tend to a fire.

The dimensions of the room are left out as are finer details because the important job of the GM at this point is to describe the situation. The immediate threat of eight brigands is going to absorb their attention. Other details can be doled out as the players investigate later.

The next version of the same room is if the players set off the Orb of Warning.

After traveling through the secret door the party reaches a set of four stairs leading down into a room flickering with bright firelight. Across the entrance to the room is an overturned table with spilt beer and tankards splashed across the floor. There is a large fireplace against the southern wall with meat roasting on a pair of spits. As the first player descends the stairs three men armed with crossbows pop up from behind the table and fire.

Same room, completely different situation. The other five men wait against the wall for the players to rush in so they can attack from the rear. Rooms are no islands of themselves. What happens in one room can affect what happens in the next and so on. Adventures need to be fluid as well as populated rooms. The inhabitants are not frozen in position waiting for the players to enter. Once the brigands are defeated the truth of the room can be discovered.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Write! Or the Potato Man Gets It!

Warning. This blog contains graphic content and may not be suitable for all viewers. Please have all children leave the room.

So my wife went nuts last night. I woke up to find my Potato Man gone and this horrible picture of his arm cleaved off as the background on my computer.

She left me his severed arm on my keyboard.

With a ransom note. She took Sid, Vicious and Chet also! The woman goes too far! She wants me to complete my novel, but resorting to butchering the Potato Man is unconscionable. Before I left for work this morning she said two words. "French Fries."

I came home for lunch and found this on my doorstep.

My God! Potato Man!

So for Sid, Vicious and Chet's sake I will start working on my novel again. I'm afraid the next package will include cooked tater tots. Oh the horror.

Be strong Potato Man. I'll get you home. Just hold out a little longer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's All in the Name

I am not a huge fan of fantasy names that are unpronounceable. I know when I am reading a fantasy novel and I come across a name like Tzrabroldvro the Wonderfully Dull, it becomes T or just plain dull. I would hurt myself if I tried to pronounce it. I say keep it simple and have some relevance linguistically and culturally. Too many folks just throw a bunch of letters together turn on the blender and make names out of the mess. You don't want reader to work that hard pronouncing names, but rather enjoy the story and adventure.

I know when I name my characters it's a critical step. A good name makes all the difference in how you play the character and how much you can get into it. The name become a part of that character's personality and how I play them. But I've made characters that I've never played in a game and use the names in stories, for NPCs and the occasional blog. The most successful names and memorable names I've had were just off normal a bit. Tastes of course vary, but my blog home, Gothridge Manor, is based off a character I ran called Vander Gothridge. Always liked that name. Used it in the MMORPGs I spent too many hours on. But the point is the name is easy to pronounce. No one will risk a sprained tongue saying it and it's easy to remember.

One side note, I just watched an interesting documentary on MMORPGs called Second Skin on Hulu. I think August 13th is the last day it will be on so give it a watch. It's pretty good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A New Class of Cleric

For the few of you that follow this blog knows that I've been grooving with Castles & Crusades lately and have been working on an adventure which I promise to have out soon. What I am planning is to create a series of three adventures that are linked. And I am hoping that each adventure can be completed in a single session. That is the intent. Whether the results match is another matter.

So what's the first thing I do, I throw the cleric class out the window for my NPC and make a new one. I created a specialized cleric of an undead god. Most gods have an aspect and it makes sense that their clerics would have specialization in that aspect. I used Castle & Crusades mechanics and rules. I just fiddled with them a bit. I made a sub class I guess you could call it. Here is the Cleric of Be'Ellon with its powers up to 5th level.

Cleric of Be'Ellon
Clerics of Be'Ellon use the same experience table and hit dice as a normal cleric. They do not gain spells, but rather improve their abilities at creating and controlling undead.

Weapons: Any except swords, but they prefer heavy maces. Be'Ellon is often depicted wielding a large mace in the shape of a skull with metal spikes.

Armor: Any.

Alignment: Clerics of Be'Ellon can only be Chaotic Evil aligned. Since the worship of Be'Ellon is outlawed in almost every kingdom his shrines are hidden in the dark places of society and in the wilderness. They have no loyalty to anyone except slightly to those within their sect and even then only a strong leader can keep the clerics from potting against one another.

Immunity to Disease: Working with undead makes the clerics impervious to naturally occurring diseases. If the disease is magical or divine in nature a cleric saves at +2. Be'Ellon's faithful gain this ability at 1st level.

Control Undead: Clerics of Be'Ellon cannot turn undead, but control them. Unlike other clerics who have to be five levels above the undead to control them, a Cleric of Be'Ellon needs only be of equal level. Also other clerics can control five times their level the number of hit dice of the undead. Be'Ellon's faithful can control ten times their level.

Detect Undead: At 1st level a cleric has the ability to detect undead as per the spell. Instead of detecting undead in the direction he is facing he can detect undead in a 150' radius. A cleric can use this ability once per day per level and there is no component cost.

Animate Dead: Clerics of Be'Ellon gain this power at 1st level. They can begin creating zombies and skeletons. To use this ability the cleric must expend 10gp in components.

Skeletal Warriors: At 3rd level a cleric will gain his first skeletal warrior (see New Monsters & Treasure section). And will gain an addition skeletal warrior every other level. These minions do not count toward the number of undead hit dice a cleric can control. It costs 100gp in components to create a skeletal warrior.

Minor Immunity to Undead: This allows a cleric to pass by minor undead creature (skeletons & zombies) without being attacked. This only works if the undead are not controlled by another. This immunity is broken if the cleric attacks the undead. Clerics of Be'Ellon gain this power at 3rd level.

Speak with Dead: Upon reaching 3rd level the cleric will be able to speak with the dead once/day/level. It takes 50gp worth of components to perform this ritual.

Lantern of Darkness: See New Monsters & Treasure section.

Unhallowed Ground: At 5th level the cleric may create a sacred place for Be'Ellon. The place must be underground or in a place where sunlight cannot reach, it must have an altar and 500gp worth of religious trappings. Unhallowed Ground provides several benefits for the cleric:
1) Provides protection from those of good alignment, giving the cleric and his undead a +2 to AC.
2) Undead cannot be turned in this area.
3) Anyone who dies will turn into a zombie 12 hours later.
4) All clerics need to make a save vs. spell to successfully cast a spell.
Successfully casting the spell has a 35% chance of attracting a shadow guardian. The shadow is linked with the sacred area and has no loyalty to the cleric.
If the altar is destroyed then the blessing is broken.

Summon Minor Undead: At 5th level the cleric may summon any zombies and skeletons in a one mile radius that is not under the control of another. Depending on how far away these undead is will determine how long it will take them to reach the cleric. It costs 100gp in components to cast this ritual and can be cast weekly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A New Member to the Family

When my friends Robin and Dave visited this past weekend they brought me a new member of the family, Chet. He fits right in. Thanks Robin and Dave for thinking of me. I appreciate the addition. Here are a few photos of Chet settling in.

Chet takes a look at his new home and proclaims, "I will do well here."

"What?" Chet asks. "I can't hear you over my awesome war hawk."

Chet enjoys a good horny zombie joke. Sid's got a million of them.

The family photo. From the left: Sid, Vicious, Chet and Chuck the gargoyle, the neighbor who drinks too much then yells at a dog that isn't there.

Thanks again to Robin and Dave.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let's Get Drunk

Players and taverns are as standard to fantasy RPGs as the sword and spell. Creative GMs come up with countless types of drinks from a wide variety of sources. But when will a character start to feel comfortably numb, unable to walk a straight line or slur his words? Here is a drinking system I use to check how incapacitated the players become after downing a pint or ten. The following system will be using a d20 approach, but can be easily adapted to fit a 3d6 system.

The first thing that needs to be done is a quick assignment of the strength of the drinks, what I call 'potency level'. I use a 1 to 5 scale, 1 being the weakest. Here is an example list from one of my taverns. This is a casual list and I've tried to reflect real world potency as closely as I can, but there will always be variables and it is a fantasy game so drinking a halfling draught of beer will be a weaker than a potent tankard of dwarven brew and both will be more potent than a Bud or Pabst.
Homebrew Beer (1)
Stout Halfling Beer (2)
Mead (3)
Blackberry Wine (2)
Purple Haze Spirits (5)

Each drink is assigned a potency level in parentheses. A rule of thumb I use is for every 5 points of health or constitution the player gets 1 free potency level he does not need to roll against. So a character with a 15 constitution could throw back his first mead without needing to roll. Or, he could throw back two stout Halfling beers and only have to roll against 1 potency level.

To make save vs. the alcohol and give the players a chance to drink a lot I reverse their constitution scores and add the potency level to acquire the save roll. So that character with a 15 constitution has to roll against 1 potency level will need to roll a 6 or better. As the player drinks the potency levels are added and after each drink the player must make a save again.
When the player fails he will start to roll on the tables below. Each section has three stages. If the player fails his save by 5 or more or rolls on the same section twice then that player goes to stage two. A failure of ten or more or rolls on the same section three times requires the player to go to stage three. This system allows the player to be on various levels at the same time. That is until he passes out from a jolly good time.

1-4 Table 1a: Talking (d6)
1-2 Stammers and slurs his words. Any skill, including spells that requires talking is reduced by 3 each time this is rolled. At stage three the player is completely incoherent and cannot use skills or spells that require talking.

3-4 The player talks a lot. Brags about things he's done and hasn't. There is a chance he will let a secret slip. His reaction roll is penalized by 2 at each level. At stage three the alcohol acts as a truth serum and any question asked to the player must be answered truthfully.

5-6 Player gets verbally aggressive and will argue with others over the simplest of things. At stage two the player will insult others, even friends. At stage three the player verbally threatens others. He may not act on the threats, but the player will get nose to nose and start shouting. Each time this is rolled the player gets -3 to reaction rolls.

5-8 Table 1b: Physical (d6)
1-2 Player is having trouble walking. At the first level the player staggers, but can keep his balance on his own and minimize his running into people. At the second level the player needs assistance to stay standing and falls down frequently. At the third level the player cannot walk. He will need to be moved by others.

3-4 Player gets touchy feely. At the first level the player slaps people on the back, grabs an arm or pokes them in the chest to make a point. At the second level the player puts his arm around others and will try to kiss a barmaid. He's getting those beer goggles on so appearance does not become a factor. At the third level the player is in the 'I love you man' phase and tries to hug people. He will continue to try and kiss the barmaid and won't notice that she is thumping him in the side of the head with an empty tankard. Players at this level the player does not have beer goggles, but blinders and could wake up with anyone or anything for that matter.

5-6 Player is getting aggressive. He will shove people who get in his way trying to start a fight. At the second level the player will just start the fight and slug who ever annoys him, but the player is still aware enough to know what is going on so if a bouncer or guards come in they can stop if they choose. In the third stage the player gets lethal and doesn't care. He wants his target down. He will continue to attack even after his target is unconscious or dead. If someone tries to stop him the player will attack the person interfering.

9-0 Table 1c: Unconsciousness
There are no rolls in this category just three stages of the save failure.

Stage One: Blackout. The player no longer has control of his character. For gaming purposes the character wakes up the next morning or afternoon and has no memory of the night before. The GM can really have fun with this situation.

Stage Two: The player passes out where ever he is. He will be unaware of anything going on around him. For one 1d6 hours the player must be forcefully woken up and will only stay awake for a short period of time. The player is unable to defend himself.

Stage Three: The player passes out and retches in his sleep. He must make a save vs. Constitution or be start choking. Someone will need to save the player if he fails or death can occur. There is also a chance the player could go into a coma and be brain damaged. It's up to the GM's discretion how far and severe they wish to take this. I've only had a player roll once for this because he was slipped a 'Mickey' (see 'Mickey ' rule below).

Some of the stages contradict one another, but that just goes with being with the erratic behavior of being drunk. This is a great opportunity for players to do some role playing. The GM should make sure to toss the player some extra XP if they can role play a drunk cleric who is looking for a fight while in 'I love you man' mode.

The 'Mickey' Rule: Someone has slipped something into the player's drink to incapacitate them. This would be a straight save vs. poison with a penalty of the potency level. If the player fails he immediately goes to the unconscious table and the severity is determined by the failure of the save.

All that frolicking and fun has a cost. Hangovers can be cured instantly by a cure poison spell or potion. Those are the only sure hang over remedies. Otherwise the player will suffer a hangover for the number of hours equal to the total potency level they drank the night before. While the hangover is in effect the player will suffer penalties to almost everything they do. I use the 5 rule here also. For every 5 levels of potency the player drank is -1 to all the player's skills for the duration. A GM can have local hangover remedies that can reduce a number of potency levels, but only one remedy will work at one time so the player cannot stack them. So if Edward the Farmer drank 10 potency levels the night before he's going to have a banger for 10 hours and -2 to all he does. If he drinks his father's remedy it reduces the potency level by 2. Now Edward will be hung-over for only 8 hours and be -1 to all he does.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fantasy Billboards in Game

In previous posts I mentioned using a billboard in my game. I did this to give the players a prop to interact with, to make it feel like the world was alive and moving. It provided places for possible adventure if the current story line hit a lull or if they wanted to do something different. I have downloaded samples of some of the billboard content. The content and fonts are very elaborate and very non-fantasy at times, but I wasn't going for realism just another splash of color for my world. I even created a 'journalistic' personality, Janon, who would report on whaatever event struck his fancy. The players enjoyed the updates and to see if they made the billboard news. It also had another effect, when the players trickled into the game they always went to the billboard to look for the new content. This got them into a game state of mind so there was not that long period of yapping about unrelated topics before hand. They got settled in quicker and I could start the game on time. Only two more miracles to go for my sainthood.

These are samples of personal ads. The players posted their own and were surprised by the response they got. It was a very effective method. The billboard always got a lot of traffic being in the middle of the market square.

This is one of Janon's reports. During one of the adventures they had an encounter in a tavern that Janon was in and the players were disappointed they did not get a chance to talk to him. He became an elusive celebrity in a way.

This final example is of a wanted list after a riot. While the players were going about their daily business they might see someone being shackled and dragged through the crowd. I always tried to have one of the posts on the billboard be apart of that session. It helped the players connect the news with the actually going ons.

If you have never used a billboard in your game give it a shot. It is time consuming, but you don't need to make an entirely new billboard each time. I added two or three new posts along with one of Janon's entries. And to keep the old posts interesting I sometimes had an old post that had been on the billboarrd for three or four sessions become relevant. One player would jerk his head up like a deer who just heard the crack of a twig and bolt for the billboard to find the connection.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Top Five Movie Sword Fights

These choices are made from the movies I have seen. There are a lot of sword flicks out there I have not seen so of course they cannot be included. This list is the top five sword scenes that I remember and loved the best. Oh, and the movie quotes I am doing are from memory so they may not be exact.

5. Seven Samurai. Pick any sword fight in this movie. This movie captures the danger of sword fighting and how most are afraid to get into a serious fight. Some take a swing then run away. Watching Kyūzō with his calm and confidence use his sword with such efficiency was incredible. It really showed the difference of a true master swordsman vs. a soldier who hacks.

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The sword fight with the Black Knight wasn't much of a fight, but more of a carving. Even though it wasn't much of a fight once you have seen it you aren't likely to ever forget it. "Tis but a scratch."

3. Star Wars. The first light saber battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan. Most will choose the first battle between Luke and Vader, but the first light saber duel stuck in my head for years after I first saw it. I racked my brain for years trying to figure out why Obi-Wan waited for Luke to witness his death. He just gave up. I mean what the hell, the kid lost his mother, doesn't know his father is the evilest man in the universe, and now uncle Ben decides to give him another dose of trauma.

2. Princess Bride. The fight between Indigo Montoya and Westley on the Cliffs of Insanity. This was such a great fight. "Why are you smiling?" "Because I am not really left handed." And it twists again. Not only is the sword play excellent, but also funny as hell.

1. Rob Roy. The final sword fight between the light footed, dexterous Cunningham (Tim Roth) against the strength and wide swinging Roy (Liam Neeson). I believe this most realistic sword fight on film. Roy dragging his sword blade on the floor, the small but draining cuts from Cunningham's sword and the unrefined determination of Roy at the end of the scene is what makes this sword fight stand out above all the others.

Honorable Mentions
Troy: The battle between Achilles and Hector. This movie could have also been called, Look at the Pretty Men Fight.
Blade: The final battle between Blade and newly transformed Blood God. Snipes should have sheathed his sword after the first movie.
The Count of Monte Cristo: The final battle scene between Edmond and Fernand. Justa all around great movie.
Excalibur: The fight between Arthur and Lancelot. "You have broken what could not be broken." Still my favorite King Arthur movie.
Hawk the Slayer: The final battle between Hawk and Zoltan. One of the best worst fantast movies of all time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Festivals, Fairs and Tournaments : The Event of Events

Over at Chgowiz's Blog he has unofficially dubbed August the month of carnivals, fairs, and festivals. I think it's a great idea and Rob reminded me of the times I ran festivals in my campaign. The campaign I ran was pseudo Arthurian style. Everyone played knights of some sort. Rob was a Roman knight by the name of Hawk, another player was a Templar Knight, Geoffrey, and his girlfriend, Delaquain; I created a female branch of the Templars, The Order of St. Joan. Another knight was Saxon, Brommel, and still had his roots in the pagan world. There were a cast of others, but these were the main four that stayed throughout the stop and start campaign of three plus years.

One of my favorite things to do in a campaign is have a community 'billboard' with announcements and advertisements. From the first session, the big announcement on the board was the King's Grand Festival celebrating his ascension to the throne ten years ago. So during the first few sessions the characters were discovering who they were, explored the political and geographical lay of the land with the King's Festival always in the background. I developed multiple storylines for each character so when the festival arrived the stage was set for several of the stories to conclude or twist into a whole different direction. It became the event for events.

One storyline that really got going was the rivalry between Hawk and Geoffrey. Geoffrey, a disliked Templar and Hawk, an amiable Baron's knight, were verbally jabbing at one another for several sessions, but because of their positions they could not just outright clobber one another without some type of reason. During the tournament they met on the jousting field. Both were worked up for this encounter and both had been waiting for weeks. After a few passes Hawk got the roll he wanted and unhorsed Geoffrey. The result was Hawk became more popular in taverns and Geoffrey was even mocked further by patrons riding the benches in the taverns and falling off them.

Delaquain's special power was she could meditate and go into the nether world where all the different planes of existence overlapped. She was hunting an assassin or group of assassins targeting the archbishop. She had the ability to see a person's true motives. Along the way she met this group of rowdy young men who were drunk and flirted with her yet they always seemed to know where she was going. They helped her track down the assassin. When Delaquain searched the netherworld for the assassin she saw the true shape of the rowdy young men, they were all young dragons transformed into humans.

During the tournament, the Baron announced Hawk's engagement to his daughter. To the surprise of Hawk. He intended to marry her, but had not committed to it yet. Hawk being a ladies' man was also seeing the baron's daughter's hand servant who announced that same night, after a tryst, that she was pregnant.

Brommel lived in a village of Saxons that was granted amnesty by the king. Normally all Saxons are considered outlaw. Brommel represented the Saxons well, but the night before a huge joust with a baron's son who made it clear all Saxons were only good as fertilizer, disappeared. It was that night when Brommel discovered that he was half-fey and one of the few that remained of their kind. They granted him the status of Moon Knight which came with some interesting powers, but the one drawback was each time he would travel into the fey realm and then return he would age in years instead of days.

To run a festival you need more than colorful banners and a few games of skill. What makes the festival memorable is what happens when the games and formal feasts are done for the day. With all the storylines interweaving through the festival I created local customs and side celebrations to give it more color, to show off the different baronies and cultures. It gave the players a chance to make allies or enemies. The festival became a catalyst for the good portion of the campaign.