Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A few basics...

Busy at work and home recently, but while cooking dinner, here's a little statement of what I play, what I have played, what I don't want to play, and possibly a bit about what I'm hoping to do with this blog...

So my interest in RPGs started when I joined a new, small country school aged 7.  They had a small library that contained the 1st Fighting Fantasy book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.  As the many comments in the link show, it was new, interesting, and opened up a new world.  I got the next few books, up to #7, Island of the Lizard King, through a school bookclub, and collected the odd one or two through my teenage years...

Then I got MERP for an early birthday - 12th or so... (Trying to find a good link to the right edition as more challenging than I thought it would be...).  Playing games long on grit and short on imagination, I found myself DMing a small group of friends through the plots of Fighting Fantasy books, with odd linking adventures that made some of the more random published aspects of D&D seem a lot more normal...

Small intermission here - I have only played D&D/AD&D and all variants once, and not entirely by choice.  Living in a small country town in the mid 1980's, pre-internet, meant that RPG ANYTHING was hard to get.  Impossibly hard.  D&D had passed through a few years before, and the only sign was a horrendously expensive (shipping costs roughly doubled the initial $) copy of Unearthed Arcana that made no sense whatsoever.  No other books at all...

And somehow I had gained possession of three copies of White Dwarf, and two of Dragon Magazine, in variable conditions.  The articles (one of the Creature Compendiums mainly) had a major influence over my games of the time.

At the same time, I had the first four books of Dragon Warriors, which turned up as paperbacks in the local bookstore.  They were simple, fun and easy to run, and formed the backbone of all the one-shot games played for a very long time.

But then I got Rolemaster... The 2nd Edition.. for another birthday.  And it worked well, as we played it in a simplified manner, with less rolls.  The character personalisation and combat (criticals, criticals, criticals...) were probably the best of either I've ever seem in RPGs.  The only campaign from my teenage years I can remember involved High Fantasy, World Shaking Events, and me playing a Paladin.  I died killing a dragon, and its corpse fell on me and crushed me.  Try getting that in any edition of D&D!

So with this varied background, I went off to a city a fair drive away to University, and met people, and found an RPG store (well, bookstore with an RPG section), and read lots of fantasy and SF books. And found that a lot of these books were not very good, and the people that I knew that played RPGs all turned into antisocial Munchkins and the few games I tried playing with them were not fun.

Imagine a room full of rules lawyers.  The first evening I attended we didn't game.  An argument about the reach of weapons from the previous game took up the whole time.  Then, when we did get around to gaming the next week, my 1st level fighter (average stats) joined their 5th level group, and despite them having +3 and better weapons, armour, etc, I only had my starting weapon and leather armour.  Died when attacked by some sort of undead that you could only hit with magical weapons.  A learning experience, but I never went back.  I looked at their character sheets when I was dead, wandering around the table.  No-one had a stat less than 16 and some were over 18, and I'm sure some of the multiclassing going on wasn't kosher.  Still, to each their own.

Later, a job in a foreign country, and a real, actual roleplaying game store that only sold RPGs in the neighbourhood.  And I ended up playing in a not-very-regular game of Legend of the Five Rings, First Edition.  Fun game that seemed more based on The X Files than anything Japanese, but a lot of fun.

Back to my home country after a few years, to start real life, and when moving between towns, picked up a few boxes from my Dad's place from my teenage years.  It contained the Dragon Warriors books, some of my MERP modules (the Court of Ardor being the favourite) and a lot of old handwritten notes for The-Great-Setting-That-Never-Turned-Out.  And I saw all the hype of D&D 3E, which made better sense than the previous editions and got me sort-of interested in the genre again.

And a few years ago, I found some 2nd hand RPG stuff, starting adding to the notes, discovered the HUGE Grognard blog circle out there, and ordered a heap of 1st Ed modules off Wizards a week before they closed off all pdf sales.  Pity.  Mostly I am like a magpie, and collect a variety of random ideas and use them as starting points for my own assemblage.

So this blog is my window to put out stuff that I've scribbled out in the past into some sort of order, and if people use it, steal it, or are entertained by it, that's great.

Hopefully something useful next post...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's a Pirate's Life for Me...

So, a Pirate Themed dress-up and drinks, with pirate games included after work a few weeks ago.  Costumes were varied but all equally desperate, and great fun was had by all, with a few bottles of rum finished off....

And, although I am NOT showing the pictures of the night, to avoid embarrassment, especially to me, it did get me thinking about pirates in my campaign world.

Not every person on a pirate ship is a pirate. The majority are thieves, barbarians, minor sorcerers and clueless fighters.  Those that are Pirates are so integrated into the life they have no concept of other lives; have reasons beyond the pale for their lifestyle; can stare down the curses of the Sea Goddess; and have faced the tempest and the calm;  these are the true pirates, who can match magics with Jack Sparrow and Bluebeard and sundry, and who leave their mark on the waters they sail...

Anyway, here's a pirate-type ship and a crew of desperate types, based on the turnout and costumes at the party.  Use how you want, as transport, flavour, rivals or allies.

Captain Deseralda the Fair

A slim, attractive woman in her late 20s, Deseralda is short (5'4") but has a presence that makes her seen the largest in most rooms.  Many fail to see the calculating mind behind the long blonde hair and the dimples.  In meetings of pirate captains, she makes her mark, with a web of contacts and favours to collect, and distribute...

She was born to a captured servant of the Island Princes of Trieste, and became a concubine at an early age.  A son was born when she was 16, and she doted on the child.  When he was 5, he was taken by his father, a Warrior Prince, to the northern lands (as was his legal right - servant's children are property of their masters in that civilised but decadent society) as a warrior's servant. This expedition soon vanished from knowledge.

After this, she joined the secret resistance of the oppressed, and led an assault on her master's stronghold during the main rebellion.  Although this rebellion was crushed eventually, she escaped with a number of other servants, capturing a sloop from the island fleet through subterfuge.   She has since formed a crew of surprising talents to assist her in regaining her son, from a place as yet unknown.

Sargent Tholos Minkaren

A barrel chested, shaven headed, extravagantly bearded warrior and scholar of the Horse Folk from the northern border of the Keldarian Duchies (think vaguely Scottish Highland Warrior with Spanish tendencies). Tholos is the Captain's right hand man and chief confidant.  He wears the full battle getup of his people, including leather belts holding a number of impressive throwing and stabbing knives, a helmet that resembles a horse mane and a rather short kilt.

He is a smart thinker, and knows many stories of The Painted Seas, but is the first to leap into action when required.  He is also an inventor of types, having developed a miniature crossbow and many types of exotic fireworks, for surprise, signalling and occasionally accidental explosions.

 Bloody Toloas

A man that was a clerk of the Temple of Justice in The Iron City of Naaga before being captured by slavers and rescued by the Captain.  He found the life suited him so well he had no desire or even thought of returning to the quill and parchment. 

He is of average height and built, somewhat pale skinned and always unshaven, and has a strange fascination with exotic peoples, animals and geographies. He manages to chronicle the Ship's voyages in the log book, but is also a violent and dangerous fighter when cornered.  He also remembers, poorly, the charms of Truth and Compulsion from his temple days.

Illymon the Pale

A tall stern woman with raven dark hair and pale eyes, Illymon has been a travelling priest of the Pale God for some 15 years, and naturally fell into the group's wake when they passed through the Graveyards of Port Oorath some three years past.

She can see the unsettled spirits that cluster around and seek to revenge themselves on their murderers, and can free them to seek vengeance on their killers at a word.  She is feared by reputation by the pirates of The Painted Seas, and even as far south as The Sea of Stars, but her spirit magic means she has a fearful audience in any port.

Mandai Stormrider

A fallen aspirant mage of the Golden Chambers, Mandai is a slender man with short cut hair, a jagged scar under one eye, and incredible muttonchop sideburns.  He is said to have burnt out part of his mind during one of the Chamber's infamous challenges, and was found by the crew on an isolated rock stack far from any land.  Some speak of a magical curse placed on him by his ex-masters.  He spends much of his time in quiet contemplation of objects and people around him, not speaking, but performing required actions almost in a daze. 

When the ship has been in desperate peril in the past, three times he has 'come to' and performed astounding elemental magics of water and air to the surprise of all, but soon returned to his normal state.  He also carries a strange jewelled curved sword of the western lands at all times.

Lady Thatheke

A slender active woman of indeterminate age, "The Lady" speaks with a strange unrecognisable accent that sounds vaguely of nobility to the rest of the crew.  She is secretive about her past, but despite her manners and extreme competence in all aspects of sailing, can fight, drink and loot with the best of them.

She wears simple clothes, but with scarlet cloth as a bandanna, a belt and around one leg, and collects choice pieces of jewellery as her part of any loot.

The Ship

The captured sloop is seemingly one of the many raiding sloops of the Trieste Empire, but closer inspections show the changes wrought over the past 6 years.  A rune engraved narwhal horn forms the figurehead at the prow, gained during a voyage to The Pale Sea and the Sorcerer-Priests of Pan Leng; Wyvern leather coats most rails, and many of the crew's weapons are dwarven, courtesy of their exploits assisting the Fortress of Baros Ghristor against raiders in their undermountain aqueducts.  The sails are made from the wings of the same Wyvern, and their golden shimmering makes the ship usually easily identifiable on sunny days.

It has been named the "Cursed Dragon" by a shaman of the Borogul Saltmarshes, and the name is borne with pride.  The ship very seldom takes part in raiding settlements or traders, and instead ambushes or hunts down single warships of the Trieste or other warlike nations, when not searching.  The path to Deserald's son has taken them to three oceans and up most of the great rivers, but they are no closer. 

A rumour recently overheard in a pirate tavern on the Black Isle of Miseleth coincided with a dream the Captain had under the influence of Dralma Oil, and both whispered that the Fire Opals of Aje will be a key.  So they search for the legendary gems rumoured last resting place in the Kopesh Rainforests, sailing up a freshwater river over 10km wide for weeks at a time.

If encountered, they are cautious but hospitable, and will usually trade information for like.  Befriend them and you will learn the meaning of comradeship amongst the pirates of the Painted Sea; Betray them to discover the eternal vengeance of the Cursed Dragon and her strange crew .