Hello, remember me?

Wow… it’s been a while! Sorry about that. Things have been a little weird, as I mentioned, but I wasn’t expecting to go this long without posting. Sorry for the absence, I hope y’all haven’t given up on me.

Since I’ve been gone I’ve joined a D&D Adventures League group. It’s a new experience for me, playing in a game store with people I don’t know very well. I’m enjoying myself, but it’s taking some adjustment; when there’s a lot of poeple in the store I have a hard time because chaotic background noise messes with me. We’ve also had people popping in and out of the game with is something I usually try to avoid when I’m running a game. But I’m not running this one, so I have to cope. In case your wondering, I’m playing a Dragonborn Monk who just hit level 2.

On a related note, I’m sure most of us GM types are always on the look out for tools to help us in our herculean tasks. I’d like to share a couple that I’ve been using, Evernote and Obsidian Portal. I’ve found Evernote is pretty helpful in planning a campaign. It’s note taking software, similiar to OneNote, if you’ve ever used that, but it’s free. Superficially it’s just taking notes, but It organizes your notes and lets you add things like images and pdfs, so you can work character sheets right into the notes for your NPC. Obsidian Portal is great for world building; it’s a site that lets you build a wiki for the campaign you’re building. It’s not much of a boon for plot elements in my opinion; that’s stuff you don’t want your players to see so normal notes are fine. But is is good for making something your players can use to learn about your world’s history, geography, and things like that. It also has an adventure log so everyone can keep up to date. Neither of these tools are without some downside, but I like them.

I know this isn’t much for how long it’s been, but it’s something, right?

Pending Schedule Issues & 5e Speculation

Ok, so I haven’t posted this week like I said I’d try to in order to make up for last week. Bad blogger, bad blogger…

And I may be posting infrequently for a while due to some real life stuff, namely that my work schedule is changing in a couple of weeks. I’ll be working on weekends, so won’t really have the time or energy to post on Saturdays anymore. Once that happens I’ll have to switch to either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and it may take me a while to figure out which day works best and get into a new routine. I’m also transitioning from temporary work to a permanent job, trying to take care of some financial stuff, and eventually trying to relocate. All this is happening as we’re entering the holiday season, etc. etc.

The main point is that this is a weird, somewhat chaotic time for me and, in the short term, I can’t promise regular updates until things become a little more stable. I feel pretty accomplished, though, in that I’ve kept this thing going more or less regularly for several months, and have developed an audience. I greatly appreciate every comment, every new follower, and every like. Thank you guys for showing an interest. While you may hear less from me for a while, I’m not going away for good.

On a more RPG related topic (that’s what you come here for, right?) I’m still pretty fixated on the new edition of D&D. The Monster Manual comes out in a few days, and I’m really excited… and annoyed that I have to wait until December 9th for the DM’s Guide. I, like Veruca Salt, want it NOW! I have some questions that I’m bristling to know the answers to. Some will be answered in the MM, but I think the DMG will answer more. Some of my questions are:

  • Will there be prestige classes? It’s seems possible that there won’t be, since a) 5e is geared towards simplifying and streamlining things b) even the regular classes have multiclassing prerequisites in a manner similar to prestige classes did in earlier editions, and c) all of the classes have “subclasses” chosen between 1st and 3rd level, depending on class (for example, fighters and rogues choose an Archetype at third level, Sorcerers choose a Sourcerous Origin at 1st level, and Druids choose a Druidic Circle at second level), and these subclasses seem kind of prestige classy. Even so, I hope there will still be prestige classes, or something similar, because I like the more specific forms of advancment they offer to higher level characters. And they’re fun.
  • Will there be rules for monstrous characters? Not only did the  monstrous character rules in 3e provide additional options for players, they helped DMs customize antagonists by, for example, letting a band of “standard” orcs be led by a Cleric of Gruumsh. We’ve already gotten a peak at how monsters work, from the few sample creatures in the PHB to the monster stat blocks released for the Starter Set as well as the Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat adventures that have been released, most of which are available as free downloads (and also gives us a still in the works sneak peak at a section of the DM guide, showing how to tailor encounters to party level) so we now what the stats are for a standard orc, or goblin, etc… but the matierial released so far has not (at least from what I’ve seen) provided any base racial traits for monstrous humanoids (ability score increases in particular), so at this point I’m not particularly sure how a DM might go about building an Orc Cleric or a Goblin Warlock other than just winging it. I’m sure the MM and/or DMG will go into this, but I’m curious about the process. Will there be level adjustments and Effective Character Levels, as in 3e, or will it be different?
  • How many domains are in a Diety’s portfolio? The PHB mentions that Dieties have multiple domains, collectivly called a portfolio, as in previous editions, and there is an appendix giving brief overviews of Dieties from different pantheons in different campaigns settings so you’re cleric has some idea of which god to follow, but that appendix only lists one or two “suggested domains” for the diety, and doesn’t go into a lot of details about the gods themselves. For example, for Lolth, the suggested domain is Trickery, but even I know that the Spider Queen is about more than Trickery. I just finished reading R. A. Salvatore’s Homeland (yeah, late to the party, that’s me) and I don’t think I’d describe Lolth as a “trickster” goddess.

So you can rest assured that, as this sort ofinformation becomes more available, I’ll be here to report… eventually.

 

Dragons Over Normandy Update: Orcs (or, Why I’m Not A Racist)

A while ago I talked about an idea I had for a game based in a modern version of a D&D world which is going through a global conflict similar to the first and second world wars, and was also seeing the same kinds of political and social changes the real world was seeing during the early to mid 20th century. I haven’t talked about it in a while, but I have been kicking some ideas around. As one might expect, a lot of these ideas are centered around which D&D races would serve as analogues for which real world countries and cultures. Though I didn’t get this here on the blog, some of my friends who I told about this face to face had a knee jerk reaction to one of these in that they found it kind of racist, and that was my idea that Orcs would be this world’s answer to Native Americans. It didn’t occur to me until someone had this reaction, but I know realize that it kind of looks like I’m saying Native Americans are evil barbarians. That’s not the case at all.

On the social/political changes side of the whole project idea, I wanted to reflect the way that the major industrial powers of the early 20th century were undergoing changes in the way they treated certain ethnic minorities. Being an American, the racial tensions that first come to mind is African-Americans (specifically the long terms effects of slavery) and Native Americans (specifically the long-term effects of the U.S.’s genocidal treatment of them). So to find analogues for them in D&D, we need races who are typically seen as evil, worthless, and totally OK to kill and victimize, and who are also very familiar. The two races I think of first who fit that bill are Orcs and Goblins, and I decided to make the Goblins the race who were under the yoke of slavery and the Orcs the ones who were fighting to preserve their own land from foreign invaders. The idea here is not that Native Americans are the way people think of Orcs being, but that Orcs should be seen the way Native Americans actually were: dehumanized victims of racist, military expansion.

Here’s a rough idea of the story of Orcs in this world:

At some point in the pre-industrial eras of this world, the various races were by and large consolidated and separated into their own lands; The Dwarf Kingdom gathered into the world’s largest mountain range, the various Elf sub races unified under a single empire in the eastern woodlands (except the Drow who remained in the Underdark), the Humans came together in the large wintry northern territories and became very isolated, secure in the knowledge that no one can mess with them unless you are the Wild Elves, and so on and so forth. At first the were still a lot of unclaimed, and thus more or less neutral, areas, and it was here that the nomadic Halflings thrived. The one race who had already existed like this, however, were the Orcs, who originated on a very large island (or perhaps a very small continent) west of the great mountains (now home to the Dwarves) and accessible through various island chains. In earlier parts of history the Orcs maintained a presence on the mainland, and much of the world’s history is marked by wars with the Orcs. But as all this nationalizing and solidifying of kingdoms happened, the Orcs withdrew to their own lands.

As time went by, these various kingdoms began to expand, leaving less and less unclaimed space for the Halflings. They began to realize that they need to abandon their nomadic ways and found a kingdom of their own, but by this point that was almost impossible to do as the few unclaimed territories left were all hotly contested by kingdoms that they didn’t have a chance against in a conflict. Then their leaders had a neat idea; the Orcs have this giant island, and everybody hates Orcs and are worried that they may come back, so we could probably get support from at least some of these kingdoms to invade Orc Country and turn it into Halfling Country.

And so it came to pass. The Halflings biggest backer by far were the Dwarves, who initially used their military might and superior technology (the Dwarves led this world’s industrial revolution) to establish a set of colonies for the Halflings in Orc Country, originally under Dwarven rule, but they eventually gained independence and spread across the island/continent thing in a kind of “manifest destiny”.

What this meant for the Orcs was centuries of warfare trying to repel these invaders that cost millions of Orcish lives and led to their near extinction. By the time of the Great War most of the Orcs are living in reservations and resisting societal efforts to make them more like the mainland races. One Halfling famously said “kill the Orc, save the man.

And this sets the stage for Orcs in the modern era, as the world is entering the largest and most brutal war it has ever faced. Orcs are being asked to fight and die on behalf of the very government that has been killing them, literally and figuratively, for centuries. They are burdened by the common notion that they are evil, savage, and barbaric. Their ancient societies are deemed chaotic and uncivilized, and the Orcs themselves are thought to be servants of an evil and brutal god (although the word “slave” would be more accurate). Dwindling numbers, fierce racism, second class citizens in their own homeland.

So you see, it’s not that I have a low opinion of Native Americans, it’s that I have a high opinion of Orcs.

 

On a completely unrelated note, I want to apologize for last week. Usually when I have nothing for you I tell you, but I was silent last time. I have no excuses, so I’m not going to pretend to. I’m just very sincerely sorry that you nice folks you decided that this little blog of mine is worth following were forgotten and ignored last week. Please forgive me, and I hope this post makes up for it.

Mileage

Yeah… so that whole switching to Wednesdays thing didn’t work out so well. Oops. Anyway…

About a year and a half ago I was in a D&D 3.5 game. I was the only one with a hard copy of the Player’s Handbook I just left it at the house we played at. It’s been there ever since until yesterday when I finally got around to picking it up. George, the guy who was holding on to it, made sure to point out some light damage to the corners the book took since I left it at his place.

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He apologized, and I said I was ok with it. And I meant it, too.

I used to be pretty uptight about the condition of my game books, before I realized that what wears books out is getting used. The books I have that are in the best condition are the ones I haven’t really used very much. Alternatively, the book I’ve gotten the most use of, the one that I used to carry with me every where I went, Vampire: the Masquerade (Revised Edition), is in terrible condition.

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That, my friends, is mileage!

So don’t worry about frayed corners or worn bindings or scratched covers. It’s just what love looks like.

Side Post: Changing Day

I’ve been thinking that updating this blog on weekends may be a bad idea; i’m either distracted by weekend festivities or just too lazy with the weekends lazinesses to think of a good topic. So I’m going to try posting on Wednesdays instead. Just so ya know.

Follow Up: Help a Blogger Out!

Ideas! I need ’em! Please let me know about anything you’d like to see me write about. Obviously I’m mainly looking for RPG related topics, but I don’t mind venturing into other fields on occasion. I’ll accept suggestions via comments also, either here or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. Thanks for reading.