Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Eastwylde: Dramatis Personae

For ease of reference, here is a list of the PCs and their players (with names cleverly changed) who have participated in Eastwylde so far.  Alignments are listed solely for purposes of future hilarity.

Ivan "The Righteous" Theodore Cruz - Male Human Paladin lvl 4. Lawful Good.  Played by James. 
Cromwell Starfall - Male Human Bloodrager lvl 4. Chaotic Good.  Played by John, sometimes an irregular attendee.
Luna  - Female Half-Elf Druid lvl 4.  Chaotic Good.  Played by Matthew.
Swanhild Ikea - Female Human Slayer lvl 4.  Chaotic Neutral.  Played by Simon, who is an irregular attendee.
Don Guzman Pablo of the Order of the Sword of St. Jesus -  Male Human Cavalier [Gendarme] lvl 4.  Lawful Evil.  Played by Peter. 

Dr. Juan G. Pablo Iglecias  - Male Human Witch lvl 3.  True Neutral(?)  Played by Peter.  Retired from active adventuring, may become a cohort in the future.
El Lithier - Male Human Bard/Gunslinger [Mysterious Stranger] lvl 2.  Chaotic Neutral(?)  Played by Andrew, who has left the campaign.
Eileen "The Stew Queen" Thunderjib - Octogenarian Female Human Alchemist lvl 4.  Chaotic Good.  Played by Jude, who has left the campaign.
Skull King Burzum -  Male Orc Witch [Scarred Witchdocter] lvl 1.  Chaotic Evil.  Played by Peter.  Only PC fatality so far.  He absolutely deserved it.

-------Backstories--------- [By Order of PC Appearance]
Skull King Burzum:  Orc of the Northern Tribes.  Likes to walk around in nothing but a breach-cloth, tons of ritual scars and a wooden mask.  Starting equipment includes a pot of moonshine.  Let's be real clear, Pete is one of those players who's gonna shit-test you and in Session 1 he did not disappoint.
Ivan The Righteous:  Paladin born into a genteel family, but not wealthy enough to be dubbed a knight.  He looks like a college-aged Ted Cruz: like the real United States senator who actually exists.  In Jim's words, "he's literally just Ted Cruz," and "he wears a cape, not a cloak."  As someone who disagrees with basically everything Sen. Cruz stands for I would be personally embarrassed to acquaint him with my friend's portrayal IRL.  I believe Jim didn't have an idea of what his Paladin looked like initially and went with something that rhymed with "Ivan Ooze," and the Sen. Cruz connection was suggested by Pete, of course.
Eileen The Stew Queen: Locally famous in some incredibly remote village as maker of the finest and most filling stews.  There is no bird, beast or blade of grass she can't utilize in her prizewinning concoctions.  Waited an awfully long time to go a-wandering, but remarkably spry.  This is because Jude scoffed and bitched the second I brought up "aging penalties" and I wasn't interested in fighting that battle, so Eileen is incredibly spry. 
Luna:  Part of an Order of Druids who are searching for something called "the Yggdrasil Seed," and who dispatched Luna to the East chasing an ancient(?) prophecy(?) that the seed had "fallen" there long ago.  I have no notion how much of this story Matt had in mind back in session 1; he plays it close to the vest.  Her animal companion is Fang, the faithful (and long-suffering) wolf. 
Dr. Pablo: Arrived from the desert country of Arroede with two jugs of mezcal and a sack of THIS AMAZING NEW MEDICINE known as cannabis, plus seeds.  His familiar is Guzman, a wily owl who lives in Pablo's hat.  His degree is legitimate, but it is for animal medicine.  Doesn't let this stop him from inventing new credentials at will. 
Cromwell: Born to the Starfall family of Sorcerers, a tiny clan of inbred, backwoods tyrants who happened to have a dragon(?) somewhere in their lineage.  Was banished by his cruel father for being the result of a tryst between "Lady" Starfall and a local blacksmith.   John waited a long time to share any of this, including that incredible last name, so I have no idea how much was thought up when Cromwell first showed up in session 4.
El Lithier:  A portly troubadour of middle age, expert at crafting guitars and guns and often combines the two.  Also fights with a whip.... poorly.  Lost his lady love to a cruel bandido and now only sings his canciones.... for those he kills.  Tragically Andy is sort of  an anorak for Pathfinder's incredibly dumb crafting system which I threw out at once.
Don Guzman:  Pablo's cousin, cavalier dubbed into a corrupt military order of Arroede who defend the trade lanes of narcotraficantes and you know what I'm seriously not going to go into this, he's a bad guy let's leave it at that.  Pete kind of has a thing for narcocorridos can you tell.   Rides a giant "war-bull" named Ferdinand. 
Swanhild: Only character who has lived for any length of time in the Shield Baronies, has been a trapper for several years.  The bad kind of Chaotic Neutral. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

3.5 is da fuckin best

I love all (well, okay most) of the ways that 3.5 is broken.  It's like a busted-ass old car that leans to the left and skids if you don't handle the breaks just so but you know backwards and forwards.

I love that Wizards are the most powerful class, but you have to be sort of an obsessive anorak IRL to use it to its fullest potential.

I love that Paladins aren't even good at dungeoncrawling because they're designed for completely different types of adventures (one of their major powers is "has a horse") so consequently just by existing the Paladin is pushing the group in a "wrong" direction.

I love that Clerics are the all-arounder, beginner-friendly, easymode class because they're the gods' representatives on earth of course they'd be

I love that everybody underestimates Rogues until the Rogue does something incredibly obvious and easy that breaks the game (burns something down, pushes a boulder down a hill, smooth-talks the mayor, leaves a trap unsprung, whatever) and then everyone screams about how Rogues are cheap bullshit.

I love that you have to realize that sometimes professional game designers can make bad choices and that you need to ignore those choices in order for Monk to even be a class.  Like, I've never met anybody who enforced that flurry-on-full-attack-only rule, ever.  I think a lot of people I play with don't even know that's how it's supposed to be because it would so obviously be a horrible idea.

I love that Druids are a weird, non-beginner friendly class who don't have much in the way of offensive abilities for their first five levels (depending on how liberally your DM lets things catch on fire I guess) that eventually get to Godmode as spellcasting bears.

I love that magic is finally, indisputably, more powerful than hitting shit with your sword.  Like, sorry dudes, but at a certain point being the best at sword isn't gonna compete with "teleport away, fly 1,000 ft high, trigger earthquake."  Anime bullshit can't beat Merlin even if you beliiiiieeeve.


I love that everything can multiclass with anything, that there are no ability caps or hard limits on what kind of character you want to make.  Everything's part of a toolbox and (this to me is the big difference from 4E---OH NOES EDITION WARRING) the game invites you to look under the hood, to make stuff and break stuff and try new combinations.  Take somebody's good idea that was poorly done---say, the Hexblade---and build it better yourself.  Once you've played 3.5 with your group for a while you're gonna know what target numbers you want to hit, how to exploit the system, and building a Hexblade who can stand next to the Frenzied Berzerker and the Duskblade without blushing. 

I love that you have a wealth of options to radically change the way the game is played (if you can talk your players into it).  Do you like called shots?  Throw 'em in, now archers are good.  Combat facing?  Fuck yeah Samurai-style free backstabs for everybody.   Sick of debating about what hitpoints meeean?  Fuck 'em, toss 'em for a wound system that keeps combat short and to the point. 

 Notice how they are constantly jockying to get on each others' flank 
the whole time.  A staple of samurai movie combat.

3.5 is less a discrete, monolithic system and more of a series of options for you and the group to consider.  If you absolutely, positively, must have balance, it can sort of do that with a few tweaks.  If like me you really don't give a fuck and are okay with having Hawkeye and Thor on the same team, it's even easier.  The strength is that it can be as simple as OD&D combat (just, you know, ignore all that fiddly bullshit about elevation and terrain) or so complex that every turn is mulled over with wargamer-like intensity and an hour is needed to resolve a few seconds of INTENSE, CINEMATIC action, all based on the strength of the simple and flexible core mechanic.   At the end of the day if you don't know what else to do, pick a number that feels right and ask the player to roll over it.  Holy shit

I spent my first decade of D&D running 3.5 for a group who were open and flexible to whatever tweaks and changes I wanted to make to the system.  While I won't say what I ended up with was perfect, it was pretty close to that verisimilitudinous-but-cinematic, impactful-dangerous-tactical-but fast-paced Holy Grail I've been chasing.  And I scared one of my players enough once that he hid behind cover for three sessions.  I'm equally proud and weirded the fuck out by that. 

Being a 6th-level hired gun won't save you if you lose Init and get caught
flatfooted by a called shot TO THE FACE.

Kingdom names for D&D

Eburonia (first thought would be related to ebony but as this plant is unlikely to grow in a northern clime a better explanation is probably needed.  Some way I can etymologically relate it to German brun for brown?)

Skarmander (from sicarius, "dagger/assassin" + salamander.  Doubtless some local heraldic beast.) 

Manticore (Shamelessly ripped off from the Honor Harrington books which I've never actually read.  But I love the idea of "Manticore" as a place name).

Tesselpot (No idea how to relate this one to any real language but I love the name.  Sounds like some little corner of Olde England inhabited by an eccentric German noble family for centuries, the kind that would build nutso architectural follies around their creepy ivy-encrusted manorhouse).

Hochsump (Definitely better name for a Barony or Duchy than a kingdom but the name comes from hoch, or "high" and sump which means "a wet, sunken pit, a bog" so it's "The High Sinkhole" which is fantastic).  

Eratso (definitely some kind of Mediterranean country, probably a crossroads for a bazillion different lingual groups over the millennia.  Name makes me think of Erictho who was a witch in Greek/Latin literature so the land might be named for one of those powerful wizardy-types who are always getting themselves immortality or minor godhood.  Maybe it's said the Goddess still sleeps in a smouldering local volcano). 

Vauntlythe (I don't know where I got this sound except it kind of sounds like "Dauntless" and "Vaunted" which are cool quasi-medieval words ascribed to knights, but that ending also makes me think of lethe---you know, the pool where the water makes you amnesiac?  So like a timeless country or a land out of time, like a magic castle that appears here and there maybe to hold Christmas/Spring feasts with dancing and contests and Deeds of Great Danger and Worth being declared.  I really like that idea, like Castle Vauntlythe just appears sporadically around the setting and its undying king is always welcomed by the changing realms of mortalkind). 

Marcelesse (Okay this is a stupid stupid pun but hear me out: few things are more medieval than bad wordplay, and also it sounds like Marcellus which is a name from Antiquity.  Perhaps the quasi-legendary first founder of the country akin to Brutus of Troy for Britain?  And then the local knights all just ran with it because how awesome is it to say "reke ye I am of the Countrey Marcelesse!" and ofc. the local chivalric brotherhood is The Marcelesse Order.)

Terraunce (Apparently the name "Terrance" is derived from Latin Terantius, which nobody knows the origin of.  Obviously I like it as a country name because you've got that "Terra" in there.  Sounds like land and sounds like terror, a lame pun Games Workshop has made meal of for decades).  Plus "Thierry" is one of the more common Franco/Belgian medieval noble names so how would you like to be le Comte Thierry du Terraunce?  You can just imagine that asshole being crane-lifted into the saddle in his ridiculous joust armor with like a visor in the shape of the sun and more sun-shaped crests on his shoulders like "aughn-haughn-haughn, fighte-moi, mon ami!"  

More later as I think of them maybe or also maybe never