Sunday, September 6, 2009

Prince of Dogs 2

"But I did nothing," he protested. "I was afraid. It was the hand of the Lady of Battles which protected me, which struck down those Eika." (p. 175 SFBC ed.)

One of the things that 4e does is puts all of the characters on equal ground essentially for 30 levels. In previous editions, once the wizards and other spellcasters started to get around tenth level, rogues and in some cases, fighters became some excess baggage.

But the powers that fighters have now seem a little too good at times and perhaps border on magic, despite the description of the fighter power source being martial.

But what if these powers aren't necessarily something that they have full ownership of? What if they have a patron saint or ancient guide allowing them to push on when they would faulter? While it possibly borders on the Divine power source, letting players claim to have no inherent skill of their own and attributing their powers to another source can go a long way in say explaining why they have abilities in 4e that they can only use once per encounter or once per day. It's because that's all their patron has given them.

"And she wanted the power. She wanted the knowledge. She could do so much with it. So much that needed to be done." (p. 231)

The villain's motivation, especially those that are long term, should be on the mind of the Game Master when creating their master piece characters.

In addition, it never hurts to know what the players want. What the players seek to do with their own abilities. What limits the players will cross in order to increase their own personal power. In this case, Antonia is entering a bargain with a costs lesser than what was initially asked, but in her desire, its clear that eventually, she will give in to that initial demand. That she will indeed go further. "You can onl ytake as much power as you are willing to give yourself." After all, Antonia already is thinking. "Imagine how much good she could do with greater powers, with the ability to compel others to act as she knew they truly wanted to." (p. 230). It's a slippery slope from augmenting one's own abilities to thinking one knows what's best for others.

"The Arethousan princes are never allowed to leave the palace, you see my dear Bridiga, because they are such barbarians that only a male can become emperor among them, and only one among the sons and nephews and cousins of the reigning emperor can become emperor after him." (p. 299).

When it comes to lines of succession, are there any specifics that the players have to worry about in their own vocations? Do they possess items that belong to the family once the character passes on?

One of the problems with many role playing games is that while they often have instructions on how to build a higher level character, they don't necessarily talk about what happens to the loot of the former character that died. For example, if you're playing in 3e and have a 10th level character die and make a new one at 10th level appropriately armed and armored, the party in essence has a huge free windfall.

The Game Master should try to get from each player ahead of time what will happen to that character's loot. Wizards could have their material donated to their guild. Clerics and other divine agents have their materal go back to the churches. Martial characters may have family in need of their equipment. Think ahead of time what will happen to the loot that these characters own unless you are comfortable increasing the loot factor through character death and are willing to deny gold and items to characters in the natural course of adventuring to make up for that.

"When the su nstands still, certain pathways otherwise hidden become clear and certain weavings otherwise too tangled to unravel become straight." (p. 319).

One of the things 4e does to a greater extent than previous editions is to make planar travel a little more feasible for lower level characters through the Feywild and the Shadowfell. This could simply be walking a pattern in a certain way, waiting for certain stellar arrangements to fall into place or the performing of rituals.

Using these methods, the Game Master can add little bits here and there that might not have as big an impact on the campaign world as would otherwise be the case. For example, if the players are being pursued through ruins, perhaps they can only escape by going into the Feywild where their enemies can't follow them.

"...the Dariyans... conquered and ruled the largest empire the world ahs ever known. Only in the myths and tales of the ancient Arethosans do we hear of older and greater empires, that of Sais which was swalloed by the waves, or the wise and ancient Gyptos peoples across the middle sea." (p. 320.)

Most fantasy campaigns are based off of some type of psuedo Middle Ages. For the most part, there was a lot of ignorance in those times. Players often confuse their own knowledge of a setting with what their characters may know. If the Game Master lets the players know ahead of time what they may know, based on the character's region and background, and lets them know that changes have been made and that corrections will be made when incorrect assumptions are placed out, then they could be cutting trouble off at the pass.

In these cases, it's vital that the Game Master has some type of understanding as to what the player is trying to do with the character. If the player is trying to represent some ancient esoteric order and that order doesn't exist, the Game Master should have something similiar or, if it's a minor campaign alteration, be ready to add that of the player into the campaign.

By informing the players that history is huge and that no one, from the haughty noble to the gods themselves, knows the whole of it, the Game Master can focus on putting emphasis on different parts of the setting and keep know it all players on their toes. Note however this doesn't always work as some players will be outraged at any change to what is considered the 'cannon' of the setting. The Game Master should try and get all of these issues out of the way before the campaignh gets too deep or any changes that the player discovers will likely be meet with protests.

Prince of Dogs continues to reveal the depth of the setting one piece at a time and continues to weave a wide variety of character through it. By slowly introducing bits of background and culture to other socieities, the book gives us a brief glimpse at how huge a campaign setting can be.