A while ago, I talked about Quelong and loved it. Yesterday, I got to run it.
As is typical for my Planescape-Spelljammer-Traveller mashup, I started off by summarizing how the party got back to the Astral Sea and used the red pill to return to Sigil. There, they contacted Lissandra, a dealer in planar gates they knew from a previous expedition. They described their goal and I decided for myself that Zadara was going to sponsor a mission to Qelong on the condition that the party provide at least one hands-on experience with a god weapon. The party agreed and so Lissandra’s “anonymous client” coughed up the diamond dust worth 5000 gold pieces I deemed necessary to transition from Sigil’s Slag to Qelong…
At the end of a three hour session we ended with the party standing in front of the cylinder, having just thrown a naga-kin against it’s shell and watching the naga-kin burn to death.
How did it go? It was straight forward. The party had two goals:
Here’s what happened, and where I got the information from. You decide for yourself whether that’s the kind of 3h session you’d like to play in.
The party arrives in Qelong and the character that can fly investigates the area; he decides to land near a peasant hut along the canal. He sees Varangians harvesting the former inhabitant’s livers and everybody at the table is disgusted even though the dudes seem nice enough and offer the flyer a job as a scout. Report to Diamond Geary about 25 miles up north, they say. This was from the random river encounter table.
They also visit a lotus temple and learn about the importance of the canals and stupas in keeping the Naga Qelong asleep. They hire a 3rd level monk named Xue Sijhanouk to serve as a guide. This was improvised based on the Gold Lotus description and the henchmen rules. The monk brought the player map aboard. It’s “from an old religions text” and only vaguely up to date. Players like hand-outs and maps. They also like the lotus as a power for law and civilization, resisting the aakom.
Learning about the aakom poison in the water, they spend 400 gold pieces to buy rations and water for 400 days. This is a party with 10 characters ranging from levels 1 to 6, plus one wolf, so that leaves them 36 days to adventure. They also own a chalice that casts cure disease 5×/day, and they have two high level clerics with them. We look at the numbers and ponder ignoring the aakom poisoning rules. In the end I decide that since the weakest character in the party has 1 hit-point and the cure disease only masks the effect without getting rid of the poison, we’ll keep track of the 1 point/day aakom poison accumulation. That’s easy to track, toghether with the rations.
They buy a sampan (a small boat) for 5000 gold pieces and sail and row up the river. This was from the description of Qampong.
Three giant pythons drop on deck and one of the giant ape characters in the party breaks a foot. I later noticed that the pythons in the book have 2 HD stats but I used the ones from the Labyrinth Lord book which have 5 HD. No problem. This was from the random river encounter table.
They come to a village full of refugees and learn about the Varangian blockade and their confiscation of all goods. Hundreds of villagers beg for food and water. I offer to scratch 100 rations to feed the crowd and the party agrees. They spend the night. This was from the random condition of village table. I didn’t roll on the village encounter table.
Along the way, the party also meets a guesthouse. The inhabitants are extremely helpful and generous. The party is immediately suspicious and discovers that the inhabitants are in fact all evil cannibals. The guesthouse is set on fire and the party leaves. This was another entry from the random river encounter table.
They reach Jamqar Long and see the squalor, the refugees, the Varangians (the refugees called them “evil dwarves”). They talk to the Varangians and learn that Diamond Geary is on the other arm of the river. They spend the night. This was from the description of Jamqar Long.
They reach Sajra Amvoel and Fort Hawk (players chuckled at the latin name) and talk to Geary and Hagen. Geary is interested in hiring them, Hagen would love for them to find the cylinder but doesn’t want to risk his own men. It’s easier to harvest aakom from the refugees. They also see Hagen feed liver to the large hawk in his lab. Should the party locate the cylinder, however, Hagen offers to bypass its protection and as a reward, the players would get an ordinary Varangian share of the profits. The players decline and want to split profits 50:50 with the Varangians. This Hagen declines. They part on uneasy terms. Before leaving, the party also talks to the four clerics in the shrine. The monk henchman notices the non-traditional lotus ponds and disapproves of laymen using the lotus power. The clerics explain how they need to cooperate with the Varangians—including offering up terminal cases for “harvesting”—because the Varangians are all that keep the refugee situation from breaking down completely. The clerics also explain about Xam and Thip Qelay. There is some sympathy, there. This was from the description of Sajra Amvoel and the Varangian NPCs.
The party moves up the river. The clerics decides to use detect magic to attempt to find the arm of the river that would lead them to the cylinder and I agree that this would work. As they move up the river, they are attacked by 13 naga-kin. Two are taken prisoner and there is some talk regarding the Naga Qelong (a four headed serpent demigod) and Set (a seven headed serpent god). The naga-kin have never heard of Set but agree that he sounds very powerful and vaguely related. The naga-kin also agree that the aakom poisoning must end but for now it serves their purpose in weaking the canals and stupas. The situation remains unresolved, for now. The party spends the night.
On the forth day, they reach the cylinder. After much talking, one naga-kin is thrown against the cylinder and expires in the flash of fire as the other naga-kin watches in horror. That resolves the relationship towards the naga, I guess. The flying character managers to make a drawing of the inscription and the party now feels that they have earned their “pay” from Lissandra’s client. They haven’t found the elven sorceress, however.
Looking back, I think I should have played a non-stop thunderstorm track instead of Two Steps From Hell.
What do you think? Not enough atmosphere? Just enough atmosphere? Quicker than you thought? Does this session summary make you want to tweak the encounters in the Qelong book?
Random Wizard has done it again. Continued from 2013-07-21 Troll Questions, I guess. Questions to troll the bloggers, to ring the echo chamber, to offer us all the possibility to pontificate… And I can’t resist! ✎
Recently I happened upon a discussion on Google+ regarding the introduction of facts by players. The example given involved an Indiana Jones character spontaneously identifying snakes. Does the referee determine the kind of snakes or does the player determine the kind of snakes?✎
When you roll for knowledge skills. If you succeed you get to decide what the truth is.✎
If you fail the GM tells you what the truth is. Sometimes the GM lies. ✎
Here’s what I wrote:
If you manage to foster the right atmosphere at the gaming table, it can be just a matter of using an ellipsis, a pause, a knowing look—and players will interject cool ideas by themselves. That’s how I try to have it work at my table. The obvious benefit to me is that we don’t need a skill. Another benefit is that it limits itself to situations where players actually have cool ideas. Otherwise—particularly if you’re not playing a story game—you might get a helpless shrug or an empty stare in response to a success on the knowledge skill check. Players are not always ready to spew forth the Apocalypse.✎
What seems to work best, in my game, is to combine it with a 1 in 6 chance. Most players will immediately suggest something very positive for them. I might make a doubtful face and say “OK, 1 in 6 chance that these cannibals fall for your ridiculous explanation. But what if it doesn’t work?” Usually the table is in brainstorming mode at that point and we all determine the rest before rolling the die. I find that accepting all suggestions at the table and have the dice decide works better than discussing it, looking for consensus—long talk disrupts flow, as far as I am concerned.✎
After announcing it on Facebook and on Google+ and on Twitter I guess I should announce it here as well: The One Page Dungeon Contest 2013 is available in print!
Woohoo, Brett Bernstein has done it again. Thanks!
The CC Share Alike license makes it possible. This is great. Somewhere in the store you can also get the 2012 book, if you’d like that.
The yearly PDFs with all the entries remains freely available. I’m assuming you know what you’re buying if you’re ordering the book.
The main reason I feel the need to post it here, however, is this angry rant.
Isn’t the content of this book available for free? Yes. The contest is available here.
Are the authors receiving any of the money from the PDF? No, but that is due to the terms under which they released their work, the Creative Commons Share-Alike License.
Is this legal? Yes. It is allowed under the terms of the license. You have the same option to do this as anyone else.
Do the contest managers know? Yes, this work was done with their knowledge and by request.
Can’t I do this at Lulu? Yes, the cost for a 116 page full color softcover book will run you 28.96$. Other complexities due to the nature of the contest make printing this book not easy, due to possible font embedding, transparency, and file size issues.
Is there any new art or content? No, it is the entries from 2013 along with the winners from 2010 and 2011.
Is this printed using lightning source or a local printer? The publisher has no comment on internal logistics.
Are the authors aware of this project? Some of them, those that have been contacted [by Brett] were supportive.
Will this be available in stores? Yes, retailers can order it through Ingram. Hobby stores that don’t use Ingram will also be able to order through Indie Press Revolution in the next few weeks.
Why doesn’t Amazon mention any of this? They take text from various lookups, which don’t always contain the latest information. Changes can be suggested, but that doesn’t mean they will be made.
Brett also said: “I make enough per book at amazon just to cover printing costs. I did this as a service for the RPG hobby, so people who do not have access to printing services could get this at a reasonable price.” (in the comments of the same Google+ thread)
As for me personally, the CC license is fundamental. I absolutely want people to copy and distribute the resulting dungeons. I want people to be able to host them on their websites even if they (or Google) are making money off of it. I want people to be able to print them even if they (or Lulu) are making money off of it. As far as I am concerned, creating One Page Dungeons for everybody to use and spread as they see fit and without having to ask for a permission is the entire point of the contest. Not everybody needs to share this point of view, of course, but that’s why I run this contest in particular.
If you’re an author, and you still feel disappointed or hoodwinked… I don’t know what to say. I honestly felt that it was obvious enough. Here’s how the instructions to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2013✎ start:
Submissions: Here’s how to submit your entry.
- Create a One Page Dungeon✎.
- Submitting a dungeon to the contest releases it under the Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license with credit to the contest participant.
- The submission must have a name, an author, and a link to the license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/).
License: The PDF doesn’t need an actual clickable link to the Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The URL just has to be readable when printed so that people can look it up if they need to. The license basically says that anybody can copy, change, and distribute your submission, as long as other people can take the new copy and do the same, and as long as they list all the contributing authors. As the author you can distribute copies using a different license, but you cannot revoke the Creative Commons license. Thus you cannot sell “exclusive rights” to somebody else at a later date. See the license itself for more information.
“The license basically says that anybody can copy, change, and distribute your submission, as long as other people can take the new copy and do the same, and as long as they list all the contributing authors.” It seems pretty straight forward to me. If you have a suggestion regarding the wording, feel free to leave a comment or contact me✎ directly.
I remember reading Justin Alexander’s One-Page Rip-Off post in 2010 where he said anybody could upload the free PDF to Lulu and buy their own copy. Please do it! You are free to do it. That’s what’s so great about it. There is no need to ask. Unfortunately, nobody stepped forward in 2010 and 2011 to actually do it. Or perhaps they did it and never offered it to anybody else. In 2012, Brett stepped forward and actually made it happen: The 1PDC in print, for those of us who’d like to have it without feeling like doing it ourselves. And he did it again in 2013. Thanks!
Sometimes I wonder whether nicks on IRC give too much away. Sex, cultural background, … So here’s an experiment. Do you treat the people the same if you can’t see their nick names?
Which magazines released an issue in 2013? Did I miss any? Should I change the description? Leave a comment. In no particular order…
Also note this thread linking many more!
Recently, Gregor Vuga talked about the West Marches campaign model on Google+. He summarized the model as “one safe home base + lots of very dangerous wilderness” and wondered about adding cities that are “interesting places where there might be a lot to do”.
Here’s what I wrote, slightly edited.
I run a similar campaign. There are some small differences in how the thing is organized, but in terms of using many cities and other safe havens, I have had no problems. I treat settlements either as safe places and thus as not very interesting with the exception of one, two or three important non-player characters. Or settlements are treated as a simple adventure locale with a handful of “rooms” (one, two or three buildings) with a particular enemy and their minions need to be fought (were rats, cultists, evil tax collectors). The key is that once the adventure is over, the settlement returns to safe place status. There’s never an invitation to spend more time in a settlement. Most adventure and all the treasure is found outside.
I think this is still compatible with the West Marches campaign model because it depends on what you want from it. I want to encourage players to choose a goal or a destination, and go there, and do something. The original West Marches did this by saying the starting village was boring and safe. If the city is teeming with intrigue, then adventure comes to the players. They did not “choose” this adventure. So that’s what I want to avoid. If I treat other cities either like the starting village (boring, safe) or like a dungeon (remote, dangerous), then I am still achieving my goal. Whether you still want to call this “West Marches style” I don’t know.
If I wanted to add cities as interesting places to my campaign, I’d make sure that cities are generally boring and safe but they contain adventuring locales. In my game, for example, the players visited Sigil. It’s a big city, it has factions, it has adventuring locales, and so on. Not a problem, as far as I am concerned. Sigil wasn’t their home base. Players came to Sigil in order to achieve something. They did that, navigated the dangers, visited interesting locales, got involved in intrigue, and left again. Had the players decided to stay in Sigil, perhaps that would have made things more problematic. Will the faction war catch up with them? Will they still get to choose their adventures, session after session? I tried to mitigate this by declaring their guest house to be safe and boring, for example.✎
I guess what happens is that I just redefine the sandbox. It’s like a fractal. Once you get to Sigil, the thing is self similar: a safe place, adventuring locales, more dangerous when farther away, and so on. Basically “one safe home base + lots of very dangerous wilderness”.✎
Recently, Andy McQuoid asked on Google+ for suggestions running a Diaspora✎ campaign with a colossal derelict ship to explore—and that ship is actively trying to kill the characters. He also said, “ I am also unsure if I present the whole ship as one big Social Combat scene, or to break it down into the component areas, i.e., bridge, engineering, medical etc. and run scenes in there. If this was a Traveller game I would draw up the plans of the ship and have the characters proceed room by room. However, I think Diaspora offers a better, story based way of doing this that would be much more satisfying to do, and I want to showcase some of the great things in the minigame toolkit that Diaspora offers.”
I would treat it as an old-school megadungeon and therefore structure game along missions. The session begins and log files show a certain percentage of extra heat radiation. There must be an unknown energy source in the ship. Outer hull sensors report increased infrared around the 1.7km line…
Prepare a sheet of paper with ideas. List NPCs (machines, programs, robots), rooms and the challenges they pose (stuff to reconnect, overcome, evade), tidbits you want to reveal, decisions that need to be made, consequences you’d like to see, and so on.
Make special note of mini-games you want to run. I’d suggest none on the first or two session but then one or two for every three hour session you play. This can be a social conflict, a platoon combat, a larger combat with a lot of zones, etc. Prepare those little maps and rules before-hand in order to make it a smooth experience.
The game itself is the structured along the challenges, players looking at their skills and deciding how to go about it, resolving the skill checks, invoking aspects, enforcing consequences, revealing interesting parts of the background and leads to new missions for future sessions.
Every now and then, I’d make sure to add adventures outside the ship. Visiting a system. Contacting other ships, etc. But it all follows the general outline above.
When I started using Google+, I added a few shared circles full of gamers. I ended up with more than a thousand people in my circles. It felt weird, however. Many of them never posted. Others posted stuff that wasn’t related to role-playing games, politics, or other issues I cared about. Others posted way too much.
At first, I thought all these problems could be solved via Circles. But in practice, that has been harder than I thought. Problems I found:
I needed to figure out whether the effort spent on circle maintenance exceeded the effort needed to curate my communities. Right now, I think that communities work better than big circles. So I did the obvious thing: I ditched my almost all of my circles. No more RPG, Emacs, Copyright & Patents and Typography circles. I’ve uncircled practically everybody. There are but 12 people in my circles right now.✎
I’m giving communities a try.✎
If you want to make sure I see a post or comment of yours, you’ll need to plus-mention me. I guess you had to do this when I had a thousand people in my circles, too. ✎
I still read the blogs.✎
When: 23 October, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))
Where: Bistro Lochergut (tram 2+3 ‘Lochergut’)
In 1922, F Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple, intricately patterned”. That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned and, above all, simple novel became
The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s – and his country’s – most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – “ Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace be comes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.✎
It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties and waits for her to appear. When s he does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbour Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem. Credit: Perry Freeman, Amazon.com✎