Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm So Unwise

My group is running a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons featuring first level characters. As some readers may already know, first level characters are quite frail and no first level character is more so than the magic user. A first level magic user can cast a single spell, can't use any serious weapons, and can be killed by a thrown potato. Playing such a character can be insanely frustrating unless you just love, love, love to roleplay and the other players join in the fun.

As an aside, if that's the case then a first level magic user is a hoot and a holler to play!

A friend has been playing the magic user in our campaign and over the last few games was showing signs of boredom and frustration with his character. The GM asked my advice. He was planning on giving the player a wand that fired magical bolts. Was that a good idea? "Oh no," I replied," that's not very creative. Give him a deck of cards that summon tame wild animals to do his bidding. That's much more open ended and interesting."

After some discussion regarding open ended, tool oriented magic items, the GM thanked me and went to work. That night he gave the magic user two Wands of Magic Missiles. The magic user tied them together to make a magical sawed off shotgun and proceeded to have the time of his life blasting away like a hillbilly on Red Bull. I'd never seen him so happy. So much for creative, open ended items!

GM's Challenge Afterthoughts

A while back I convinced a group of friends to take off a whole Saturday for a set of GM's Challenge Dungeons and Dragons games. The idea was to hand the GMs a random selection of story elements and then run three back-to-back games. The GMs would have to feature the story elements and also segue from the previous game into their own seamlessly.

There were a few things I found appealing about the idea. One was to be thrown the challenge of making a fun adventure that featured elements someone else picked out- including bizarre or silly things like Lurkers Above or the Flumf. I also liked the idea of having to deal with whatever cliffhanger ending the last GM left you with and link your adventure in smoothly. In essence I was aiming almost for Comedy at the Improv, Dungeons and Dragons style.

Of course, eighty percent of live improv comedy is actually pretty horrible and our first GM's challenge left lots of room for improvement. I don't think any of us really considered how to segue from one adventure to our own and so the transitions were not quite as clever as they could have been. Further, I think the idea of an adventure based on an outrageous Dungeons and Dragons creature may be immediately funnier to me than to the other GMs.

In hindsight I think the GMs challenge was a good idea that deserves a second try. I think the other GMs really needed to have the monster theme spelled out- for example, not merely to have a Roper appear, but to base the whole adventure on the city of the Ropers. Returning a lost Roper baby to its worried parents. Or thwarting an evil Roper wizard who seeks to enslave a beautiful Roper princess. It's completely silly but that's the challenge- how much mileage can you get from this absurd monster? It could be wildly creative. But again, for every hilarious improv act you see there are a dozen that just flail and it may take a bit of practice to bring the GMs to the level of Reno 911 or Upright Citizen's Brigade.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Quiet Month

My family and I are getting ready to move! I hate moving (or change of any sort) but it will be for the better in the long run. In the short run, however, it's going to be a little quiet here at Gamenight. I have to figure out how to pack eleventy zillion painted minis, all the games, and of course furniture and our possessions. I have to convince my wife that our 36 inch 1996 Zenith television, the opposite of flat screen since it is actually deeper than it is wide, will someday be a collectors item and should be moved with us. I also have to convince her that paperback science fiction books are better than kreugerrands as investment items and if even one was thrown out it would be a tragedy. Yes indeed, busy days ahead.