Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trying to Ponder while In The Ruins by Kate Elliott

I finally picked up In The Ruins, Volume Six of Crown of Stars. Some of the Paizo Planet Stories books I've read would require three such volumes to make up one of Kate Elliott's lumbering tome. It's not that it's not a solid story but that the cast of characters is so vast that there are some characters who barely get any face time here.

So reminder to myself number one: Don't let any one player hog the spotlight. This doesn't mean that I'm going to force role playing opportunities down player's throats if they're coming to the game to role some dice and socialize, but try to make sure those players all get what they want out of the game.

Next, it's long. So long that I didn't mind reading some odd four or five other books between book five and book six of Crown of Stars.

So reminder to myself number two: If I'm not 'feeling' a particular adventure, move on. Sooner or latter it's going to wind up effecting the players as I do something that's just stupid in order to end the session and move on. If the game's not working for the players and the Game Master, things can get ugly real quick.

Anyway, while I read the book all the way through, I found after the first few hundred pages that I didn't have a lot to bookmark. That may be because a good deal of this series themes I've covered before or just that nothing struck me too much.

So below some quotes and some gaming thoughts in another installment of Appendix N. All page quotes taken from the Fantasy Daw paperback verson.

"Lava streams out of the earth" (p.17)

Pretty clear right? A huge cataclysm comes to the land and among the hurricanes, tital waves, earthquakes, blackening out of the sun and other issues comes along lava. This is something that we have historical data on as the lost city of Pompeii can attest to.

"If the thread that bound the Ashioi land to Earth is severed, then is the aertherical realm closed to us?" (p. 47)

In some game settings and even some sysems, magic is a force that is all around and can be used by those who know how to maniuplate it. In Rolemaster for example, it woudl be essence. What happens if a natural disaster destroys the ties to essence? In the Forgotten Realms, right after the initial Time of Troubles, there were many regions of both Wild Magic and Magic Dead Zones. While the problems of the natural order can be terrifying, those in a fantasy setting should also move to the logical next step; magical disasters. In some settings with a vast history of magical manipulation, these diasters may be the explanations as to why those old empires failed. For example, the Forgotten Realms used to have cities that floated powered by magic. Not a good thing when magic fails and those cities come crashing down eh?

"We have our wits, child. Let us pray they are weapons enough." (p.129)

Many games, especially the most popular one, Dungeons and Dragons, are combat oriented. When possible, the game master should look for ways to challenge the players that may not involve their characters strongest abilities.

I'm not saying make monsters that have immunity to the characters strongest attacks nor overwhelm them with simple force. Make the players think in ways that can showcase the characters they have as actual characters instead of just a collection of abilities. In some game systems, like GURPS or Hero, this can be done a little easier as characters will have disadvantages that the Game Master can use to bring those bits of character background or personality into the fray.

For game systems where no such limitations are implied, the Game Master should work with the actual history of what has gone on in the campaign before and take notes of what the players have done and see if they stick with that as 'character' or if they just do what is convientent for themselves.

"I could have gone." he said angrily, hoarsely, but his voice always sounded like that." (p. 168)

In terms of making characters unique, making them stand out, the game master has a limited number of options to invoke. One of the easiest is giving each character a distinctive voice. This way when the game master uses it, the characters know right away who they're dealing with. Voice work can be tricky and the Game Master might benefit from writing down a few of the NPC's favorite lines and practicing them. Giving each character a distinctive voice can be over kill though and if the DM is merely aping bad accents it's probably best just to stick with slogans that the characters use as opposed to how they say it.