Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiend Folio J-Corps + Some Session Notes

Despite the fact that the Vornheim contest is at this very moment, in progress, I am still in the process of redoing the Fiend Folio.

The J's are a quiet neighborhood, only 2 monsters: Jaculi and Jermlaine.

The Jaculi is profoundly Ok, I guess. It's a sort of leaping snake with decent paleocryptozoological cred. It's just, well, hey one more snake-monster. But then since snakes are books then an expedition to the Viridian Jungles to hunt the rare javelin snake for its enlightening flesh is an ok thing to have to do, I suppose. I added little feet things to make the launching-itself-from-trees thing more convincing.
The original Jermlaines--little mousemen--look, to be charitable, like melted coneheads. Or, to be accurate, like naked retarded people.
The nicest thing you can say about the later versions is that they made them look less like retarded people, but still not less retarded.
So I just ignored all that. Ok, so they're mouse people. There's nothing wrong with mouse people--Fritz Leiber had mouse people. Warhammer has rat people. D&D already has wererats. The big difference between mice and rats is personality. Mice are cute.
Ok, so this guy came out looking like a Mouse Guard mouse, or Desperaux. So the local difference between wererats and jermlaines will be that wererats are as big as people and you feel good about killing them and jermalines are little innnocent wee folk and you feel really bad about killing them.
_____________

Notes from Day One on The Isle of Oth:

-So after sailing across the sea the PCs finally land on the mysterious Isle of Oth (motive? "I wonder what's on the Isle of Oth?""Yeah, let's go there.") and they are greeted by soldiers who think Connie is their boss. Actually Connie's long lost sister is their boss. They look alike.

-Then, because this is always how it goes, the next session Connie couldn't be there. So the whole talking-to-your-long-lost-sister business is pushed to the wayside.

-Luckily, the Isle of Oth is a sort of insane urbanized semi-democratic teratocracy generated this way and the PCs quickly get caught up in inter-monster politics.

-I remembered, after the fact, that I have 50-odd random "things NPCs want from other characters" cards which I made up and really oughtta use next time. Ever make game stuff and forget you made it a month later?

-Mandy's snake-cleric got fucked the fuck up by some new, improved hook horrors and so abandoned her faith, switched religions and got busted back down to first level but now with weird witch-powers, courtesy of her new mistress (for a year-and-a-day) Germanotta.

-Satine rolled a new character. Following my "go through enough dead normal characters and you can start creeping into the exotic races" rule, she's a snow-leopardperson.

-New method for improvising encounters: just have a picture of every single monster or person in the environment on the laptop desktop. Faster than having a list since seeing is faster than reading. Categorize by monster type next time? Maybe.

22 comments:

  1. The problem I have with those Mouse Guard looking people is that...well, I am now rooting for the Mouse Guard people & not the dirty stinkin' thieving PCs!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My PCs felt sooo sooo bad for the Jermlaines when they faced them. Even with the shave your head thing they had going on some lingering description on how much they went SPLAT when crushed by a war hammer made everyone but the dwarf doing the splatting cringe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "-Satine rolled a new character. Following my "go through enough dead normal characters and you can start creeping into the exotic races" rule, she's a snow-leopardperson."

    Nice rule.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There are actual "leaping" snakes that do not require little footie-things to leap (drop and glide, actually) from trees. That said, you managed to make it pretty cool looking. I will, from now on, expect snakes to have little feet.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @brandon

    well duh, but these are supposed to go completely sideways and to hit with the force of a javelin, so i figured they could use a little help.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Pictures are worth 1000 words, but sometimes the minds eye does a better job than the ocular. You want immersion, you want players conjuring the images not simply here look at this...oh that thing...or oh I saw that dress on so and so last week, or he looks like Ronald Reagan.

    Pictures certainly help when things are a bit complex and when interpretation/misrepresentation can fuck over an encounter or session. Getting everyone on the same page is critical.

    You may have thought Blair Witch was a piece of shit, but I thought the monster I conuuered in my mind was far more disturbing and personal than anything they could have shown on the screen.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @anathematician

    Does any of that have to do with anything in this post?

    If you're trying to make some anti-picture-because-it's-pro-immersion argument then well, hey, read this:

    http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2011/05/if-there-must-be-cheeto-use-cheeto.html

    also of possible interest to you:

    http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2009/10/imaginable-monsters-sci-fi-monsters-etc.html

    ReplyDelete
  8. -New method for improvising encounters: just have a picture of every single monster or person in the environment on the laptop desktop. Faster than having a list since seeing is faster than reading. Categorize by monster type next time? Maybe.

    Well you said this, so I said what I said.

    Anti-picture? Mo. But a picture for every monster and NPC? Isn't shoving images at them a form of railroading. This is how I see it, so it has to be how you must see it?

    You mention team imagination synchronization. I agree it helps alot. I also agree that iconic images are enticing and more memorable - RIFTS was successful because of the copious art not its shitty rules and hodge podge setting. But when does it become watch the movie in my head?

    Allowing players to imagine some things certainly does not kill game play. Hell maybe they imagine something worthwhile to add to the world.

    Maybe you used the word every, and you I feel you should have not used a universal.

    So yeah that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @anathematician

    If you think pictures are a form of railroading you don't know what railroading means or you're using language in a sloppy way which you can do anywhere else on the web except here.

    As for having a picture of every monster, I did NOT say I was showing the pictures to the players. I was using them for myself so I could keep a handle on what monsters are around. So you read that wrong.

    Anyway: If I think a picture will have an effect I want, then I show it, and like every single other thing I do as GM, this decision is exactly as good as how much my players enjoy the results of it. And they do and they keep coming back, so I am guessing I know how to run a game.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I used the term railroading very loosely, and I made a faulty assumption by misreading your last paragraph.

    My only contention was based on my assumption that images somehow were going to replace the players opportunity to evoke images based upon a GMs description. In some way robbing them of the chance to use their imagination or limiting it.

    I assumed wrong, thus I eat shoe leather. Chomp. Chomp.

    As I mentioned before, I credit you and the girls with opening my eyes and reinvigorating my gaming. I am truly thankful for that. I certainly am not here to piss you off, though it seems I may have. That was never the intent.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @anathamuhsihguy

    So, I draw better than I speak, and if I'm trying to communicate the appearance of some imaginary thing to a player, why the hell wouldn't I just show it to them?

    But when does it become watch the movie in my head?

    When you're doing it well. If communicating a thing isn't the point, what is?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would say sometimes its best to let the players imaginations take over. Why force feed them everything.

    D&D is not simply about the movie in the GMs head, it is a shared experience. Both ways. Let the players share as well.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @boys

    don;t exaggerate the other person's position, even if they're so sloppy with their writing that they make that easy.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yeah I need to work on that. Full of good intentions, confuzzled by shitty use of the English.

    Could be worse I guess. I could be right.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. D&D is not simply about the movie in the GMs head, it is a shared experience. Both ways. Let the players share as well.

    The players share by interrogating the presentation. Think about the methods by which you examine or interpret a scene in a film, or how you gauge the situation when walking into a room. An information-rich photograph or environment (or an approximation of that) just gives you more details to think about. In a game, you're forced to externalize that thinking into a dialogue with the GM (and, by extension, the other players).

    ReplyDelete
  17. In any case, because of the shared nature of the game, a tyrannical domination of the shared imagined space is impossible. The failure of the imagined space or imagined events to engage with player expectations of how things work which happens because of 'railroading' is a result of the normal exchange of questions and answers breaking down. If the 'railroading' is noticed, then it's because the players pose questions (what happens when "I punch the wizard"?) which GMs are unwilling to engage with. Conversely, the GM poses questions the players refuse to engage with all the damn time, and it's a normal part of play (cf. every time someone asks 'how do I get my PCs to do X?').

    ReplyDelete
  18. Excellently said. Remember this is not an assault on using art to aid in creating a shared imaginary space, its a concern regarding its overuse. The creation of only one vision, a plenum that stymies the imagination of others.

    It is an extreme case, prompted by Zaks use of the term every, and my misreading what he typed.

    If the GM is going to show players everything, and does not allow them input into the vision then you are not playing a RPG on the XBOX or an MMORPG essentially.

    Along for the ride? Railroading? Fine they can make informed decisions such as Go North, Attack Troll with Sword but they can not in any way add to the game, imagine outside the box and have it be relevant to the game. I think that give and take is crucial. Hence the apprehension evident in my responses.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I think you're vastly underestimating the amount of interpretation that goes into just reading a single image, and how much freedom there actually is in responding to it. For example, you encounter a party of rival adventurers. They leap out behind a cornice and start haranguing you about your mother. What do you do? How do you gauge their dangerousness? What's the first question you ask?

    Along for the ride? Railroading? Fine they can make informed decisions such as Go North, Attack Troll with Sword but they can not in any way add to the game, imagine outside the box and have it be relevant to the game.

    I think we're probably dealing with very different descriptive needs in the game. My primary campaign doesn't have a single troll in it, maybe one right angle on the whole map of the level they're just finding their way out of, and when they finally did meet someone with a compass it wasn't pointing North. In this case, any non-verbal assistance in communicating the details of the environment they're in can only help the players communicate more questions back to me. I think my players are kind of pissed that I'm leaving the map-making duties to them. If I could give them a picture and say you see this' for each room, I think they'd enjoy it a lot more.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Again well said, however what the players imagine sometimes is better than what the GM envisions. Losing the opportunity to gain valuable input from players, because the GM closed off a chance for them to use their imagination, is tad worrisome.

    The GM envisions this kick ass door shaped to resemble a devil's baleful gaze. He presents a picture and the players. They say cool. All is good.

    What if the GM simply described it. It is possible that a player could have a more interesting and artful take on it. Maybe that players vision is better than the GMs and the GM knows it. Know is the chance for the GM to latch onto the players creativity, use it and run with it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mice look cuter than rats, but they're way meaner. I'm liking the idea of mouse-like Jermlaine, with their cute, disarming appearance masking a sinister personality.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dude, I totally thought you would have commented on the fact that jaculi are 8 to 12 feet long snakes with huge barbed bone ridges on their heads that launch themselves as fast as a javelin at some fool and STILL only have 1 hit die and do only 1-6 hp/damage. Hell the snakes in Tomb of Horrors had 2 hit dice and fit in a box, for chrissakes! Plus the flavor text:

    "They are usually found in woods and forests for they are basically arboreal in nature and feed on tree mosses and insects, but some swarms have adapted their habitat to pillared halls and the like. Although not naturally vicious, jaculi swarms are highly territorial and excitable, resenting more than a transient intrusion into what they regard as their territory."

    Should be changed to:

    "They are usually found in woods and forests for they are basically arboreal in nature and feed on halflings and children, but some swarms have adapted their habitat to pillared halls and the like. Jaculi are naturally vicious punishing even a transient intrusion into what they regard as their territory."

    Not only that, but these things can't even attack when they land. That makes them ...
    piercers.

    Seriously what one hit die monster is going to live long enough to climb up a pillar again?

    Just sayin

    ReplyDelete