Monday, July 5, 2010

Forsaken House by Rich Baker

So now that the end of the second quarter and the month of June is behind me, I can stop working 60+ hours a week and read a book. The Forgotten Realms line often has what I call 'popcorn' books that are quick to read and often entertaining. Since I usually run a FR game, I also take a few odd ends and notes here and there.

Rich Baker's book has many a good idea for inspriation in gaming. The scopes of this series are epic and high involving the return of many of the elves to the mainland of the Forgotten Realms campaign. Almost an anti-retreat as it were.

The first thing I'd note, is that the main character is tossing spells like prismatic spray and disintegrate about as main spells and not as some last minute hoarded magic. With that in mind, if you haven't run a game in a while and have a definitive campaign arc, start your next game off at the cust of epic level. Use those often unusued books and get some milage out of them. The old basic sets even had rules for immortals.

The second thing is that there is a huge swathe of history in the Forgotten Realms. Does it make sense all the time? Probably not. But much like say, the Green Lantern series from DC comics, it does allow the GM to literally pull things from out of the backside and say, "Yeah, it's been here all along its just that you didn't know it." and often when such events happen, it's because a higher power was supposed to be keeping track of things. In this case, it's the demonfay, a group of elves that have given in to the temptation of demon alliances.

The third thing, is hit them at home. In the Goodman Game adventure, Dragora's Dungeon, the players start the adventure off under assault at their own home. In this book, as the main character enjoys the scenic beauty of his home, it comes under assault. Few things will get a body as motivated as possible as getting an attack in their own house.

Note this can be grossly abused though and shouldn't be taken out all that often. If you punish the players by continuously assaulting them in their own house, even if they make real efforts to safe guard their home, this might be seen in some circles as 'dick DMing'. The point isn't to punish the players but to get the game moving with some action.

Fourth thing, the magic items! Here we have a series of gems that have a wide range of uses. In 4e, this wouldn't necessarily be possible and indeed, in many editions, weapons and magic items often have powers that just run outside the game. As long as the GM is controlling when access to those abilities is possible, it shouldn't be a campaign breaker. Sure, the item can do Y, but it only does it when the GM wants. Now on the other hand, if the players come to rely on that ability, then the GM is either allowing that ability to manifest too often, building that ability into his campaign to be used too often, or the players are trying to abuse the in-house system the GM has set up.

Fith thing, epic scope. The elves returning to the mainland is an epic thing. Are there similiar efforts in your own campaign that could be made by the players? Can they restore one of the fallen empires? Can they bring forth a new age? Can they create a demi-plane where the dragonborn's ancient empire lives again?

Sixth thing, keep the variety up. While the main thrust of the book deals with the elves and their corrupted cousins, there are other elements afoot. For example, demons and devils and mercenary outer planar fiends. Past those though, the adventurers still encounter a few random beasts on the road. Past that even, the enemey armies they face often have vile mercenary races working with them that fall into the standard forces of evil; orcs, ogres, trolls. By allowing a center enemy to take stage, the GM shouldn't forget all of the other wonders that the system has within it.

Indeed, in a game like 4e that doesn't necessarily rely on the players fighting one big bad at a time as was often the case in the previous editions, it almost encourages the GM to come up with reasons why a wide vareity of forces such as this would be gathered together. Strong leadership, bribes, alliances and outright enslavement of the others is as good a cause as any in this case.

Seven thing, end clean but leave plenty of room for further adventurers. I've read a few books that end on a cliffhanger. I hate that. I much rather prefer an ending where the book is finished, the reader knows that there are other elements that will be coming down the line, and other conflicts that will be taken up and the reader has more to look forward to then "how the hell is the main character getting out of this."

Rich Baker is a solid writer and his books have many ideas perfect for stealing for that high level campaign you've always wanted to try out.