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Friday, May 13, 2016

Further Updates from (far) Beyond the Borderlands, Part II

(Continuing from the last update:)

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, it was a surprise to no one that Orchid - a founding member of the adventuring company and Hildy's beloved former employer - was "The Hag" that had been tormenting the Keep's residents for nigh on three months.

The group stood atop the Keep's gatehouse and steeled themselves as The Hag Formerly Known as Orchid rapidly approached on her flying broom, cackling maniacally enough to put Magaret Hamilton to shame. They had prepared as well as they could for the imminent attack, and all able-bodied men and women were manning the Keep's defenses, as the Curate and Brother Zogustus stood guard in the Chapel over those residents who were unable to fight.

On the grounds around the outer walls of the Keep, figures moved in the moonlight: the Hag's animated minions - skeletons, zombies, ghouls, and wights - rushing forward to smash against the worn battlements like a silent wave of shadowy death.

As the PCs readied themselves for the coming onslaught (fighters readied their swords, clerics prayed to their gods, and magic users prepped their spells), The Hag flew close, pointed a finger at Brother Zogtavius, and spewed a bilious curse. A sickly green ray extended from her finger and touched his breast. He clutched his chest and blanched, then fell dead to the earthen inner courtyard below!

At this point, I don't know what the reaction of the characters was, but that of the players was decidedly one of disbelief. "He's dead? Dead dead?" They'd lost many PCs and NPCs in this campaign, but none that had reached more than second level. I don't think they expected me to let one of these established characters die so abruptly. But, hey, I told them when we started the campaign that I wasn't going to pull any punches as Dungeon Master.

"Yep," was my answer. "'Dead' dead. Now what will you do?"

After a few moments of disbelief, confusion, and panic, it was decided that one of the PCs would run to fetch Brother Zogustus to see what he could do for his fallen master-clone, while the other PC and their NPCs would lay down a ton of hurt on Hag Formerly Known as Orchid for what she'd just done to their favorite zealot. (It should be pointed out that it was a little unnerving how quickly everybody forgot that The Hag was really poor, possessed Orchid once first blood was drawn!)

Then, as if to add insult to injury to the panicked defenders of the Keep, a roar sounded out from the skies above - followed by a rain of acid the laid low many of the men at arms. The PCs were still reeling from the loss of their spiritual leader when a black dragon descended from the moonlit skies above...

[To be continued...]

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why Your Wizard Can't Use a Sword...

Or, at least, why he or she can't use one as effectively as he or she can a staff or dagger... Briefly explained in narrative form:

Blackstaff the Wizard, Necromancer of the North, Watcher at the Wall, Keeper of the Crimson Journals, wasn't always Blackstaff. Nor was his teacher always Blackmane, nor his teacher's teacher always Blackheart, nor his abysmal disappointment of a pupil always Blacktome, etc, 
No, these epithets are a product of a tradition going far back, back before the recorded histories of the Realms were put to parchment. The wizarding traditions were laid down by the first families to unlock the secrets of spellcraft and have been followed with very little alteration since. 
Thus, when Blackstaff - before he was Blackstaff - began his training, the course of that erudition was so old and ingrained into the tiny magical community that none questioned that he should forego his gods-given name for that of simply "Adept." Nor did they question that his first three years of training would include nothing more than menial labor - no magicks would be taught him until his fourth year, And then, only the simplest spells, including Read Magic, were taught, so that he might learn and master  the fundamentals of spell casting.
Also, when the Adept reached his fourth year, his teacher began to train him to fight with the same weapons his teacher had taught him - the staff and dagger. Thus it had always been, thus shall it always be. 
And so would the training continue, in the prescribed manner, for no less than five more years and until such time as the teacher felt that his pupil was ready to take his name. That name would bear the teacher's name mark, just as his had borne his teacher's name mark, and so forth back through the ages. Thus did all the great wizards - Whitehand the Weird, Greymule the Redundant, Bluesmoke the Bereft, etc. - come by the names by which they are now known.
And so would they - not one of them - be much good with a sword. At least, that's why in my game...

I look at some of the apparent oddities of B/X Dungeons and Dragons as challenges. Instead of seeing things like Magic User weapon restrictions as limitations (put in place to serve a rules-based purpose) I try to think of them in game terms: Why would such restrictions exist in the context of the game world? What sort of opportunities for storytelling do they offer?

The key is to think beyond the written rules. When game rules that are perceived as arbitrary limitations are woven into the tapestry of the game world, they can exceed their humble beginnings and become a creative force acting upon that world and a key element of the story of the characters.

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