King of RPGs Blog: Start
After much tinkering with WordPress (and there will probably be way more tinkering in the future), the King of RPGs blog is finally ready. For anyone coming to the site for the first time, nice to meet you! The book was announced at New York Comic-Con about a week ago, but Victor and I have been working on it continually since early 2008, and we started collaborating way back in 2006.
It’s raining really hard in San Francisco — good weather to stay indoors. The other night I ran a Dungeons & Dragons (4th edition) game for some folks: Jason, Emily, Gail and Alexei. I had run a KULT one-shot game for Jason and some other people a few years ago, but now Jason and Emily, who had never played D&D before, wanted to be able to say that they had played it (sort of like one of those “100 things you must do before you die” lists). At the last moment I decided not to run part of “Scepter Tower of Spellgard” and instead decided to try to convert “The Keep on the Borderlands” to 4th edition. Its nonlinear exploration-based structure (or, as some would say, total lack of plot) seemed like it would give the player-characters more options than a more tightly plotted adventure. However, realistically, given that we only had six hours to make characters and play, I should’ve run a much tighter decision tree with a series of two or three fights. The game went well, but we had to end for dinner between battles, before the players were able to rescue the merchant and his wife from a terrible fate at the hands of the bugbears. Instead, Rizwin, Lazam, Balorthane and Shenanda remain camped out in a dank cave, bandaging their wounds and trying to ignore the stench of the dead ogre 20 feet away. At least they can say they killed an ogre, and Lazam nearly died twice — once crawling under a bear skin to slowly die from head injuries, and once from being shot by a hobgoblin’s arrow, causing him to fall out of a tree. In a roleplaying situation, the more you and your friends *almost* die, the better. This is my philosophy as both a player and a DM. It’s the same in shonen manga — heroism is measured by how many times you can be struck in the head with a iron battering ram and suffer a serious concussion before getting back on your wobbling feet, soaked in blood, vowing “I must… protect… my friends!” Maybe Rizwin & Co. will spring back to life and finish the adventure, or maybe not. Afterwards, we alll went to Golden Era, this awesome vegan Chinese restaurant on O’Farrell street.
I also ran a Dying Earth game a few weeks ago, with my friends Konstantin, Mark and Stephen. Both Dying Earth and D&D4e are very good games for newbies, but unlike D&D, Dying Earth is not a wargame. Some people — including myself at times — love moving figures around on graphs and tactically plotting stuff, but other role-players prefer to just wing it and act crazy and get into character. Whenever I play Dying Earth I think of comedy shows like Flight of the Conchords and Black Books, in which the characters are idiots who are motivated by the basest instincts (although they may or may not be lovable deep down), everything goes wrong in horrible ways, and it’s hilarious. Add to this a bunch of monsters and weird magic and a mood of sci-fi/fantasy fin de siecle decadence, and there you have it. I ran Ian Thomson’s “The Day of the Quelo,” and it went really well. Konstantin rode off into the wilderness on a giant talking slug, Stephen ended up naked and helpless in the middle of nowhere after failing his Resist Lecherousness roll and putting the moves on the wife of a fundamentalist cult leader, and Mark got all the money. It ended with Konstantin making me watch “Zettai Shonen” on youtube. There may have been some alcohol involved.
That’s it for me and RPGs for the moment. I’ll post more as it happens. In the meantime, I have to get back to reading manga and writing volume 2 of King of RPGs. Hopefully I’ll have some previews to post for you soon.