Monday, February 7, 2011


And so I continue with my active projects list, and prove my geekiness.  Today, I write about DND.

Once a month, for about the last 15 years, a group of friends and I get together in one couple's living room and enter a world of fantasy.  Now, before you get too many visuals in your head, we're not as hard-core as the people your mother warned you about.  We don't wear costumes, and we don't talk in fake accents.  Most of the time, we don't even "role play" as most gamers would consider it, since we are not in the first-person mode with our characters.  We almost exclusively say that our characters are saying something or asking someone something instead of actually asking it or saying it.

For those of you still reading we use the 3.5 system.  We haven't even considered trying 4.0 yet.  We have too many books and too much knowledge tied up in 3.5.  Until about 6 months ago, I was DM'ing a campaign from Alderac Entertainment Group called "The World's Largest Dungeon".  It comes in a book 840 pages long, with something like 16 huge full-color maps.  I had to stop DM'ing because of conflicts with work.  I just didn't have time to prepare for the next gaming session and work on my mapping app, etc.  But when we stopped, my players had only gotten through about three quarters of the initial map.

DM'ing any campaign is a lot of work.  It's telling a story, and to tell it well, you need to not be doing it on the fly.  It's the first time I had seriously tried DM'ing, and I probably wasn't doing too well anyway.  Especially toward the end, there were too many times that my players were getting to places that I hadn't read well enough and wasn't ready to run.  It also doesn't help that DND is often like a broken "choose your own adventure" book.  The characters will quite often choose the option that you didn't prepare adequately for because you didn't think they would choose that option.  A good DM is either prepared to run it anyway, or prepares in advance ways to prevent that option from actually coming up, without seeming to railroad the players.  In my case, I hadn't done either.  The main thing they did to me is that they are supposed to get info from several monsters/NPCs, but instead they killed anything that moved and didn't manage to talk to any of them.

But, I think I have a way around that.  In the off time, I have come up with another option to get them back on track.  I've advanced the story built into the dungeon further than the original writers had it and shifted some things around.  I've even figured out a way to get the characters the info they need before they shoot the messenger.  However, even though I have come up with the basic story line I will use, I still have to work out the details of where the messenger is, what his stats are, what to do if the character somehow head in what is now a deadly direction before getting the info, etc.

And even without this change, it's a large dungeon.  A large, sometimes poorly written dungeon.  Not poorly written in the sense of bad grammar and such, so much as written by multiple people that didn't necessarily talk to each other (each chapter/map section was written by a different author).  And there are things that just don't make sense that I am trying to fill in.  For instance (and any DM can tell you that this happens a LOT in the literature of any campaign) there is a lot of information about what happened in the dungeon hundreds of years ago.  But there is no way in the campaign to get that information to your players.  Then there's the part about the titan guarding the entrance, but who has somehow gone unnoticed and undiscovered for eons.  Yeah, that makes sense.

So, long story short, I won't have the time to deal with a campaign of this magnitude until I get done with my current project at work and get some free time.

In the meantime, another member of our group has started DM'ing a campaign set in the Kingdoms of Kalamar.  It's a campaign setting none of us has played in before.  Also, this DM like's to "tweak" the rules a bit.  We are currently using the vitality/wound points system and the spell points system from Unearthed Arcana.  For you that don't know, it basically means that our characters can die much easier, and figuring out magic is harder than it was before.  At least the magic system seems like it might actually be an advantage.

Aside from that, I am running a much smaller campaign with only two players via video conference.  A couple of people that played with us years ago got out of it because they couldn't handle the hours.  (Our once-a-month game starts around noon on Saturday and runs until 3 or 4 in the morning, normally.)  Recently, they asked me to DM quick 2 hour sessions every couple of weeks via video conference.  So far, it has been fairly simple.  I've been using the free short adventures provided on Wizards of the Coast's website.  I think I have even come up with an overarching theme to tie the many disparate adventures together into a campaign.  We'll see how that works.  Even if I don't, they are enjoying the individual adventures, I'm doing better at the story telling and keeping them alive, and the small adventures don't need anywhere near the work from me that the huge dungeon was needing.  So far, we haven't even worried about mapping it out.

The main issue this campaign is trying to get video conferencing working with Ubuntu.  SIP doesn't work, Meebo doesn't work (and just uses Google Talk), Google Talk seems to work, but doesn't allow more then 2 parties, and skype's multi-party conferencing doesn't work with Linux, only with Windows.  I'd really like to toss the whole open-protocol, centralized server model and get a single stand-alone, peer-to-peer client that is completely configurable in ports and whatnot, and is multi-platform (because my players are on windows).  If it is just straight tcp/ip, this port and this address, then I can make sure my router is set up to pass the right traffic and I don't have to worry about whether the servers are up or not.  So if any of you have any ideas on this, let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment