Sunday, July 11, 2010

Farthest Reaches by Rich Baker

For some campaigns, the source material may be almost limitless. There may be fiction lines, comic lines, numerous gaming source books, various editions to wade through and other material that only a true devotee would want to see acknowledged like terrible movies or nostalgic carton television shows.

The Forgotten Realms hits many of those points and in The Last Mythal Book II, Rich Baker takes us to a few spots that are out and about in search of lost lore and lost history.

In your own campaign, do you have places that you always mean to add to the campaign but never get around to it? Do you have numerous locations that you'd like to have set pieces in but time is against you?

Work against those standards by building the events and the important characters that will be interacting with the party. There is no need to detail the whole of Thay if the party is going to perform a quick jail break after gathering some first hand information from a few contacts and well wishers.

Have the party explore the Ruins underneath the Shades in Anauroch and snub their noses at the shadow lords.

Have the party search out sunk ships off lost islands in the Sea of Fallen Stars with appropriate guides and captains and enemies of those allies coming after them.

The size of the campaign, both in terms of years and in terms of sheer scope, can sometimes seem overwhelming.

Break it down into tasks that need to be accomplished and reminders that the players don't necessarily have to see all of the setting, meet all of the Non-Player Characters and fight all of the unique monsters of each region to have them stick out in their mind.

In addition to taking his characters all over the Realms in this novel, Rich also show cases one of the problems with dealing with high level magic and power. The consquences of power can often bring about a physical change in a character. In this case, the High Mage earns himself the essence of an immortal eledarin. I know the naming can be confusing for those just getting started with 4e, but in brief, to cast high magic, the caster must have some type of immortal life force augmenting his own. For his foes, their choice was simple; demon essence.

By taking on the essence of the eladrin, the High Mage avoids the obvious pit trap and earns the power he seeks but at the same time, the essence of the immortal is not that of the high elves and it causes the character to undergo some physical changes.

Physical changes are often seen as a price of power. After all, doesn't everyone know Railisitn by his Time Glass Eyes? Is Elric not known for his black blade in addition to his albinoism? Such features are popular and a quick way to showcase the unique nature of the character.

When writing up such side effects, unless there is some actual game advance to them, the GM should not beat the players over the head with numerous penalties and bonuses. The thing is to make the player feel that his character is special and to have the cast of the setting treat them that way. If as a GM you must do this with game mechanics, you might be going about it the wrong way to begin with because at that point, it becomes another tool for players to attempt to min-max.

Use the campaign to the fullest or just use the parts you want but never worry about how you're going to do it. Just do it one piece at a time like the old Johnny Cash song.