Short Updates 2009-02-25

Short newsupdate since i haven’t had the time to continue  on my Underdark sequence.

Pathfinder beta-testing has ended yesterday,  found the information on pathfinder newsletter and over at Questing DM.

Besides that I’ve seen a very interesting posting (a real recommendation) when you’re facing some disharmonies in your gaming group. I’ve had that problems at least once in the past and had problems dealing with it. Mike and Johnn describe different approaches to facing disharmonies by lack of trust and problems with character concepts.

Since alchemy is present in most fantasy systems, but I haven’t found a rewarding – easy to use – nice looking, working basic ruleset or the like, I think I’ll give Bard of Valiant’s system a try, and will introduce a little bit (really only a little bit of it) to characters that are likely to have uses for this. I might come up with a few rules for a downside (explosions, failure without noticing) but right now would like to try her alchemy rules that she has laid out in a straight-forward and easy to use blogging series.

A few words on our campaigns over here. We’re currently running Pathfinder RPG in two campaigns, one is located in the underdark and run by Thomas, the other one is currently located in Rashemen and run by Roman, I will take charge of the later group at the next opportunity. Very motivated to sit in the DM chair for once again, I made sure to read Johnn’s freemind feature once again and while I used the mindmapping tool so far only with single-mindmaps I found the interlinking of different mindmaps to be very comfortable, this makes the use of the maps a lot easier and even on larger-single trees you can link within one mindmap. Currently I’ve prepared an overview mindmap crosslinking to “Allies, Items, Timeline, Brainstorming, Opponents and Traps”, I will add at least characters as another mindmap to it. It’s very helpful in the planning procedure and I’ll post the mindmaps once the whole adventure campaign is over here. If you’re curious, let me know and I’ll send it to you via email (the main reason why I can’t post it here is – some of my gaming group might read it and I hate to spoil their fun). To get the planning mindmaps in mm (Freemind format) write me an email to admin (insert an AT here) lemmi (insert a DOT here) at and you’ll have them in no time.

As a teaser I’ll give you my intro-mindmap with no specific information on it.

Adventure Outline Mindmap
Adventure Outline Mindmap

Stöckchen?

Grad von Klaudia bekommen…

Wenn ich nicht ich wäre, sondern…

…ein Monat: Dezember
…ein Wochentag: Freitag
…eine Tageszeit: so gegen 3 am Nachmittag
…ein Planet: Mars
…ein Meerestier: ein Manta
…eine Richtung: Norden
…eine Zahl: 7
…ein Kleidungsstück: ein Herrenrock 🙂
…ein Schmuckstück: Onyxring
…eine Kosmetik: Handcreme
…eine Blume oder eine Pflanze: Venusfliegenfalle
…eine Flüssigkeit: DMSO
…ein Baum: Feigenbaum
…ein Vogel: Steinadler
…ein Möbelstück: ein schwarzes, bequemes Sofa
…ein Wetter: ein dunkles, heftiges Gewitter
…ein mythisches Wesen: Phönix
…ein Tier: ein schwarz-grau gestreifter Panther
…eine Farbe: violett
…ein Element: Holz
…ein Auto: Lamborghini Diablo VT in giftig-neongrün
…ein Lied: Paradise Lost – Red Shift
…ein Film: The Boondock Saints
…eine Serie: Addams Family
…eine Filmfigur: Shaun (Shaun of the Dead)
…eine Stimmung: gleichgewichts-suchend
…ein Körperteil: Hypothalamus
…ein Gesichtsausdruck: unlesbar
…ein Schulfach: Sport, allerdings in englisch gehalten und mit dem gelegentlichen Ausflug in die Naturwissenschaften
…ein Gegenstand: 1000MBit Router mit WLAN Funktionalität, der ab und zu mal nicht mag
…ein Wort: Fantasie
…ein Körpergefühl: entspannt
…ein Knabbergebäck: Essigchips, handcut
…eine Sportart: e-Sport
…eine Droge: Lysergsäurediethylamid
…ein Getränk: Birnen-Cider
…eine Eissorte: Erdbeer mit großen, fruchtigen Stückchen
…ein Spielzeug: ein Chemiebaukasten
…eine Stadt: Prag
…ein Land: Cormyr

Wer mag wer will? *Stöckchen werf*

The Underdark: Underground Environment

So here we got – part two of The Underdark is online, in case you missed the first one:

Not too long ago I had one a discussion on player perception and your hardest job (at least for us in our gaming group) is to deliver the same perception of the situation to everyone, no matter if (s)he played for years and is a dungeon master himself or if (s)he played only for a few hours and actually does not care a lot about rules, story and the lot. This if course is true for UNDERDARK adventures, your job as a dungeon master will be to create an environment for your players to call home, for the time of their stay. But this “home” will be a lot different from what most of us are used to, that mentioned I hope most avoid having various mushrooms growing in their homes ;).

The environment

Hardly two forest look alike and that’s the same for the underdark. You will have to come up with a few ideas on your own and there will be distinctive differences to various regions down below. Still a basic question you might want to consider: What can survive underground without light? Fungus, worms, earth-elemental and related creatures and plants, everything related to negative energy (undead) will not have a lot of problems either, as well as shadow-related stuff, after all there’s shadows everywhere down there.  Continue reading The Underdark: Underground Environment

The Underdark: Introduction

I’m working for a few days on a writeup of our latest adventures, then again I think our current campaign is a classic introduction to the Underdark. You might have the (official) Underdark Book (D&D 3.5) and find it quite useful if you’re running a forgotten realms based campaign. Then again, there are a few flavour factors you can hardly get from the book, something you should hear over and over again before you even consider running an underdark campaign. I’ll try myself on a series to prepare any motivated dungeon master to lead a party of adventurers into the down-below, feedback is (as always) very appreciated.

To introduce your players to the underdark, make sure you and they understand where they are going. It isn’t some dungeon-dwelling when you’re travelling into the homes of duergar, drow and illithids. All of you should be scared, where you’re headed there is more darkness than light and your chances for death are higher than for survival. Continue reading The Underdark: Introduction

Character (Design) Ideas – a starter…

Characters are great, after all they seem to be the reason why we play roleplaying games, do you agree? (I hope you do) – I’m reading quite a few blogs every now and then and most focus on the dungeon-master part of the game, a bit of philosophy and a tad of reviews, criticism and great ideas how – to improve in general the gaming experience. Some share their adventures, but too few share their characters. I’ll try to change that now, maybe you feel like adding your own characters in your blog, share some creative ideas and I would appreciate any trackbacks to this posting here.

It’s all about the players you think? Ye, you might be right – players vary a lot and if you want a definition from that side, you probably have a good start at looking here… Then again, I think even the most annoying player (the one that always wanted to join your group, but never got the meaning of rpg and having a nice evening together) can contribute if he is helped a little bit on his way. You know, I’ve seen a lot of great players, but not all of them were great actors or impersonators – some of them lived of their creative mind – the spirit they gave to their characters was always something special. Continue reading Character (Design) Ideas – a starter…

Hannes – Farewell party

Project HannesHannes will leave us soon but there were still a few things we wanted to show to him, since he spent a lot of time over the last two days together with the hitchhiker sheep (on the pictures easily identified with a olive-green french-hat) and James the skunk – but since we have a lot more sheeps around here, and everyone was pretty fond of our visitor, the hitchhiker-sheep prepared something special. But I think pictures might tell you a little more than just my little story…

Hitchi's masterplan 1Hitchi's masterplan 10Hitchi's masterplan 3Hitchi's masterplan 4

So after telling Hannes that he was looking forward to a nice evening with some popcorn and tv (Hannes was looking quite sleepy and might have enjoyed this after all), our planning little hitchhiker’s sheep led him into the carefully prepared living room. As you can clearly see, Hannes was really calm and not expecting the least of what should follow. Continue reading Hannes – Farewell party

Hannes at the Austrian Pub

hannes-1Since we’ve met Hannes the Sheep, it has been a pleasure to enjoy his company. He’s a light-hearted little fellow and even accepted James the skunk without prejudice… So to make him a little present we decided on monday night, we’ll take him to a real Austrian pub, seems like he did enjoy it but judge yourself.

Hannes und sein Zwickl
Hannes and the Zwickl

Everything started with a  Zwickl, even though I have to admit I’m not much of a beer-fan, every now and then … and when we have a guest from far north … and so I decided, ok let’s have him enjoy a good Zwickl (and Hannes obviously did so).

Vorspeise das Chili
Starter - Chili

We continued with a starter and Hannes chose the Chili con Carne, not typical Austrian, but typical for an Austrian pub to serve this in a rather mild way without real chilies in it. Hannes was not too much fond of it, then we decided instead of letting him pick, we’ll recommend something different thing for main dish…

Hannes' main course
Hannes' main course
Hannes cheerful
Hannes cheerful
lifting his spirit...
lifting his spirit...
The cause for the lift
The cause for the lift
then it was a bit too much...
then it was a bit too much...
dizzy
dizzy

When Hannes was finally done with food and drink, we were a short moment worried when he stopped talking about where he was planning to go next and sat silent for a long moment, but obviously he was somewhat used to alcohol and the overbaked bread was probably enough of a basis to get over it. After all he seemed a bit dizzy but told us later he really enjoyed the evening – though he was looking a bit dizzy when he did.

Hannes the Sheep

hannes-1Project Hannes.

Ok now you’re waiting for some explainations, first of all – I apologize since this blog is mainly (90%) in english and I have the strong feeling more people are able to understand what I write here, when I do it in english, I’ll carry on with this… Project Hannes was started by Voodoosheep, who sent his dear friend Hannes, the sheep onto a journey to find the center of the blogosphere. Since my dear girlfriend Jinxx, headmistress of the Vienna Writer Blog volunteered to offer a nice place to stay to Hannes, I accepted her proposal to show him a bit of my world. You should understand that we’re quite different in some of our areas of interest. So when we returned yesterday evening (that’s a lie, it was morning – honestly!) after a night at the ball… it was an easy decision to show the sheep something different. Something of my very personal world – something from a roleplaying player’s part of this world ;-).

We started introducing all players to Hannes. Traditionally we always had the company of Loki (aka Heavy Metal Sheep aka Black Sheep of Doom) at most of our roleplaying sessions, but lately Lori and Loki were absent and since Hannes had enjoyed the company of James the skunk after yesterday’s drinking night at the ball, both decided to join us for the roleplaying round. The big asian game-master dragon was also close-by and after a first small misunderstanding, in which the asian dragon mistook Hannes for his lunch, it looked finally like we were ready to start (without anyone missing) and – ye we did have a very nice afternoon.

Hannes, James and the Asian DM dragon
Hannes, James and the Asian DM dragon

Hannes started a bit directly to mess around with Jenny, not very gentleman like but I think she captivated him quite easily and both of them shared many good laughs in the afternoon to come. The same was true for Beatrix, Roman and Thomas (this afternoon’s dungeon master) who shared insights and smiles. Hannes and James both were faszinated by the tabletop-approach of our first fantasy-battle, which was accompanied by a wild story in the world of Faerun, where close to the mysterious forest of Cormanthor our newly founded party was surprised by an earthquake (it was honestly a thrilling, entrailing story told by Thomas) which cracked the earth open and freed several dwarven zombies which fought long and hard against the sound and friendly guys of “Klauental” (Clawdale). Both Hannes and James helped us a great deal in keeping track of the battle and tried to improve our general battle-experience. You have no idea how happy I was, that none of our mages ever thought about using the infamous Stinking Cloud tonight.

After a long and hard battle we needed a short break, Hannes was happily emptying my tea, which had a few refills over the hours and then the sheep helped preparing a delightful Lasagne succeeded by delicious noisette-chocolate cake and while James the skunk was sound asleep and most of the human players of tonight were still occupied with the game, Hannes had emptied 7/8th of the Lasagne – only to savagely enjoy the cake afterwards.

Hannes and Jenny
Hannes and Jenny
Hannes whispering to Beatrix
Hannes whispering to Beatrix
Hannes throwing dice for Roman
Hannes throwing dice for Roman
Hannes and the Dungeon Master
Hannes and the Dungeon Master

This was followed by another thrilling battle until Hannes and James both decided it to be enough for tonight. We had our final talk at around 21:00 and decided to continue next week. We all wanted to thank Hannes for sharing the delightful afternoon with us and hope the small adventurous trip into a fantasy world was new and exciting for him.

From what Hannes told me before he finally dropped into a sound sleep tonight is, he will stay for another two days here in Korneuburg and is looking very much forward to learn to know more bloggers from the surrounding area. So I’ll keep you up to date and will post some more exciting stories with Hannes in the two days to come.

Hannes and the Dragon part 2
Hannes and the Dragon part 2
Hannes James and the Tea
Hannes James and the Tea
Hannes and James vis a vis
Hannes and James vis a vis
Preparing Lasagne
Preparing Lasagne
Lasagne vanished
Lasagne vanished
Hannes and the chocolate cake
Hannes and the chocolate cake

RPG Superstar Round 3 (Villains)

Oh it looks very promising and the one european on his way to the finals is still there!

According to the new paizo newsletter we’ve got 17 finalists, who are already fleshing out villains for their submissions. Based on Pathfinder’s beta rpg system (the inofficial D&D 3.75) I have to admit it’s something I am really, really looking forward to.

And since we only got one european in the whole competition – I say – go Vladislav go!
The Top 17 finalists for RPG Superstar 2009 and their winning entries are:

Eric Bailey (Wakefield, Massachusetts, USA): Varrush, Master of the Palace of Abundance; Lens of the Runethief

Matt Banach (Champaign, Illinois, USA): Rustin Harp, Ringleader of the Lost Carnival; Master’s Perfect Golden Bell

Joao Beraldo (Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil): Boemundo, Unliving Oblivion; Heart of Oblivion

Joshua Blazej (Simi Valley, California, USA): Derinogen, Aristocratic Mage; Hurricane Gloves

Kevin Carter (Aliso Viejo, California, USA): Malgana the Twistwood Witch; Spider Hook

Randy Dorman (Pittsfield, Maine, USA): Hecataeus, Master of Constructs; Helm of the Golem Master

James F.D. Graham (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada): Count Falconbridge, Fate’s Adversary; Mongoose Claw

Trevor Gulliver (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada): Bracht Darkhouse, The Flesh Peddler; Horn of the Dark Hunt

Carl Klutzke (Carmel, Indiana, USA): Sharina Legendsinger; Boundary Chalk

Jacob Manley (New Hampton, New Hampshire, USA): Volner Tain, the Thrice-Damned Disciple; Dust of Weighty Burdens

Eric Morton (Normandy Park, Washington, USA): Aelfric Dream-Slayer; Veil of the Midnight Vigil

Vladislav Rashkovski (Bulgaria): Kardam, the Burning Khan; The Scarlet Legionary Banner

Philip Snyder (Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, USA): Ssyth’ek, He Who Devours Demons; Temporal Bracers

Neil Spicer (Waxhaw, North Carolina, USA): Gulga Cench, Scion of Cyth-V’sug; Last Leaves of the Autumn Dryad

Matthew Stinson (Jacksonville, Florida, USA): Sartel Bollen, Mistress of the Headless Caravan; School of Eyes

Doyle Tavener (Richmond, Texas, USA): Kar-en-haris, Grand Master of Spies; Desna’s Triptych of Threefold Wisdom

Mark Thomas (Brooklyn, New York, USA): Lord Jeroim Borloz, the Diamond Dragon; Hammer’s Bane Torc

[updated] Freemind for Roleplayers

Update: This has been announced before in the comments, Johnn of roleplayingtips.com and campaignmastery.com has posted his behalf of useful tips and helpful tricks with freemind. Make sure and have a look at what he’s got to share. (by the way, campaignmastery has just received a complete category revamp that looks pretty useful if you’re searching for all kind of advice over there). Johnn’s Freemind Tips for Gamemasters.

Using mindmapping tools is something rather common in project management and meetings nowadays, but why shouldn’t we use it for the preparation of our games as well? I have to admit, I like the program freemind a lot, it has a user-friendly interface and once you know how to use it, you will probably not think about using something else – and another merit that makes it attractive for personal use – it’s 100% free. You can download it from the Mindpage at sourceforge.

Starting

You start by creating a new file (File -> New) and have a single root in the center of your screen saying “New Mindmap”. Get used to have more than one mindmap for your planning since you only have the option for one main-root and you should try to keep everything clearly arranged. When you’re working with a larger tree, use the left mouse to drag the whole tree and navigate easily to the part you would like to be. If your tree is getting larger you might want to use ESC (escape) to recenter it on the core, as the easy way back. Ok so you got your basic navigation working let’s get you a step deeper into the details.

freemind_example2
Now you can start adding information to your mindmap. To get started you press INSERT with your mouse on the core and on the right side there will popup a new bubble / fork. Insert some text (npcs for example) and press enter. You’ve created your first fork/bubble to use, when you press INSERT again, you create the next information level and can start (again for example) a few npcs – just names or titles will suffice so far. You can achieve everything so far mentioned easily by clicking with your right mouse button on existing forks or the core and you’ll get a menu to popup with a lot of selections. Repeat the previous steps with insert from different starting forks and expand your mindmap henceforth. Everything else should be more or less intuitive, I hope.
You can do a lot of things with the mindmap to make it easier of use. I suggest you use colors and the bubble vs. fork design (both from the Format menu). Fork design looks a bit opener and the edge colors will help you to group particular topics together. I’ve tried to show you on the example chart the short result of a brainstorming like I would use the colors. It’s just a virtual thing without real campaign background in this case, (I’m a bit secretive with sharing my future plans here, since a few of my players read this blog every now and then)… You start with the campaign name and several main topics, I’ve chosen npcs, regions, events and traps since those four will be of regular use in most campaigns – you might extend the tree endlessly with other things, and the more you expand it, the more important it will be for you to use colors and perhaps font-types to keep everything for quick access. A single click on a fork will expand or collapse it at anytime, so it’s useful to keep a smaller tree always visible and expand the characteristics and special notes when you need them. (I’ve started working with a laptop as dungeon master a few months ago and I have to admit, it has clear advantages).
I don’t think you’ll use the time management tool that comes with Freemind but you might want to use other features it has. First you have clear icons on the left side toolbar, if you select one or more of your forks/bubbles you can add icons with priority numbers 1-7 or several other symbols to it (very useful if you want to make sure you don’t forget about several things), and if you’re getting into extensively using the mindmap, you might want to use clouds to mark things that belong together. It’s like the edge-color tool for your own use, but it draws a cloudline around the whole selected fork – once again very handy to keep close track of everything on the sheet without mixing things up.
Freemind mindmap extended
Freemind mindmap extended

I hope you find this short tutorial useful for your own planning and design steps. If you have further questions, please never hesitate to ask, I’ll answer to the best of my abilities.