Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

My points of light…

Who knew that former US President George H. W. Bush was a Game Master, and a groundbreaking pioneer at that! He spoke about points of light campaigns in 1989 almost twenty years before D&D 4th edition. What’s that? He didn’t mean that? Let me look at that link… Well I feel like a fool!

In all sincerity I knew what the quote was about, I remember hearing it back then. The link to Wikipedia above explains that the origin of the “thousand points of light” is from the Magician’s Apprentice by CS Lewis. But the D&D points of light campaign is another matter entirely. When I first read of the concept in the run up to D&D 4th edition I was intrigued. But I have a long running campaign and the idea of the points of light style game really did not mesh well with the world I had created over 20+ years.

Every edition change entails some mechanical changes in ongoing campaigns. If you consider my world was first played in D&D Basic, and then went on to be adapted in AD&D 1st and 2nd editions, D&D 3rd edition and 3.5, you’ll see I’m no stranger to change. However I don’t like hand waving stuff that is an integral part of the campaigns consistency. If dwarves could not be magic users before, why can they be now?

So I like to create in game rationales for this type of changes. The change from AD&D 2nd edition to D&D 3rd edition was easy since the games where set in the same world but in distant continents. Still I created in game explanation for many changes. When D&D 4th was coming out I was fully on board and while I was unsure how the whole points of light concept would carry though I was ready for other changes, tieflings were already in my campaign since 2nd edition, they looked different but that was not a problem per se. Dragonborn where another matter, so even before I made the rule change I began to work a rationale of where the race would come from. I was set! All that was left was for D&D 4th ed to come out.

And then I read the books. Don’t get me wrong I liked D&D 4th edition, I still do. It’s a game with a clear purpose, delivers well what it’s intended to be, and it certainly dared to sacrifice some sacred cows I thought they’d never touch. But I could tell this was a different game, that its feel and game play would be different from what I was used to, so I decided NOT to jump in into my campaign right away and instead do a trial run using the points of light idea.

That turned into our 7+ month D&D 4th edition campaign. We played weekly during that time and went all through the heroic tier and into paragon. Those where some turbulent months, with rebellions at the table over the system, some players disliking it so much they quit the game they have been playing with me for decades, exploring the tools the system provided, and telling a pretty entertaining story along the way. Ultimately we decided the system was not for us and moved on to Pathfinder.

With D&D Next coming up I’m suddenly thinking about adaptations all over again, I am not sure I will switch my campaign if I play it. IF I get to participate in the playtest (WotC pick me, pick me! I only bash you semi-regularly!) I will most thatn likely create a mini-campaign just like I did for 4th edition.

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They don’t sparkle, period!

I know I am late to the party, the Vampire the Masquerade 20th anniversary celebration was last year. But I did not catch the anniversary bug until this year. My relation with Vampire is a complicated one. I was in college and gaming actively during the heyday of the World of Darkness. I played 1st edition, but never got the books, When 2nd edition came out I got them and played sporadically. These were also the heydays of Magic the Gathering and our sessions would always start late because someone wanted to play a hand of Magic.

Despite being primarily a Game Master during my years gaming, I was never a Storyteller for a Vampire game. One of the things I enjoy the most is playing my homebrewed world, and at this time we were playing AD&D 2nd edition. If this was the golden age for Vampire and the World of Darnkess, it was not for AD&D. I worked at a FLGS and whenever I talked about my AD&D game with some RPG fans I got this weird condescending look, as if I was still playing child’s games instead of engaging in immersive storytelling. I felt disdain for the game I played. I don’t know what your experience was but I felt a lot of World of Darkness gamers were snobs, their game was better than anyone else’s.

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The Compact: Post-apocalyptic Campaign

Michael’s recent post about his upcoming campaign has lit a fire under me to work on a couple of campaigns I’ve had on the backburner for a while. He always tells me I should post about my game sessions, campaigns and the prep I am doing but I always fear this will be of little interest for the majority of you. But I can’t stop thinking about this campaign and I guess a blog post is a good place as any to start organizing my ideas. Hope you like them and they may inspire you for your own games.

The Compact

The children played near the long wooden tables where the villagers had dinned not long ago. Sundown was coming and they ran down the field towards the crops. The celebration meant that harvest was drawing near and many of these children would soon have little time to play. Their cries of joy were suddenly silenced when they saw the old man. He stood a few feet from them, seeming to have come out of the corn, his beard wild and unkempt, and his frame thin and frail, tanned by the sun. But it was his eyes that scared the children. They seemed to dart to and fro, always looking at things unseen. His laughter crackled and one of the younger boys sobbed.

The older children had been taught to respect the elders and some of them picked up the younger scared ones and tried to leave but the old man would have nothing of this. “No, stay children, stay… Come sit here in a circle, now in a circle… Let me tell you a story, a story of the time before the valley, before the community, before the war.”

Despite the hesitation and the fear gossip might have installed on the children, none of them could pass up such a story. It was rare indeed for any of the adults to speak of this. Even the scared ones wiped away their tears and sat in a circle around the old man. The sun was setting beyond the corn fields, beyond the mountains ringing the valley, and it painted the sky red as the old man began his tale…

“I remember the time, the time before the war. We lived in villages of glass and steel, much larger than the eighty odd houses huddled around the town hall and the great house, and there were many more of us. Well not all were like us. Some looked different, spoke differently or believed in different things. Not only where there horseless wagons dancing around the houses of glass and steel, but great metal birds made by man flew across the sky and travelled beyond the clouds to the stars.

And then there was war, the skies were sundered and the seas burned. The great villages of men were torn down and the survivors killed each other for the scraps. And there were worse dangers, things we had forgotten about…”

The old man suddenly fell silent, night had come and the children were all mesmerized. Under the moon the old man’s eyes and hair seemed to glow. He mumbled something, sat down among the children and snapped out of his daze. “The cold came soon, and the darkness that would not lift. The founders all came together and decided to leave it all behind. To seek refuge in the wild, the forgotten lands, and came here to the valley. We all gathered and signed the compact, agreed to come together in the great house and select those amongst us best suited to lead. We plowed the fields mined the hills beyond the swamp and in the end reaped what we sowed…”

He rose with a jump, startling the children. Agitated he began to speak faster and faster, almost incoherently. “We tried to hide, to leave it behind but they would not stay away and then they were tempted and the compact, the compact was broken and remade, sad, and the light the blue light…” The distant night sky flared up, blue as if lightning was coming from beyond the mountains and the old man began to laugh. But the laugh was tainted with sadness and desperation, and a few of the children though they saw his tears as he ran back into the corn fields.

The idea behind this campaign is a little different; it’s less Mad Max and more The Village. The players are the younger members of a community of survivors that hid in a valley and created a sheltered community. They cultivate the fields; make ethanol fuel to run simple generators, make gunpowder for the weapons they manufacture and the leaders of the community enforce order under the authority given to them by the compact, a document signed by the community founders. All is not well, for reasons unknown to the players some families left the compact some time ago and took over the far side of the valley, taking control of the mines. But something has happened to them and they are spoken of only in hushed tones.

There are limited medical supplies and the community relies on a healer whose craft he or she passes down to their apprentice in secret; the sick are treated in the great house in the utmost secrecy. The great house is also the place where the elder members of the community gather around the book of the compact and make the decisions for the village.

This is my basic concept for the game, it still needs to be fleshed out, establish some specifics, but that’s what I‘ve got so far. What do you think? Have any suggestions? I hope to post more about it soon…