matt_doyle: (Default)
The basic ruleset I am using for The Broken Road is D & D 3.5, because it is most familiar to me and to the players.  But because the Allotment is focused so heavily on mage-lords, who are obviously spontaneous casters, the world is changed to revolve around them in any number of ways.

Classes I am encouraging aristocratic players to focus on:  bard, sorceror, favored soul, shugenja, artificer, and duskblade.  So far there are no commoner PCs, and I think there are unlikely to be any.  Some mage-lords may have exceptionally weak magic:  these would likely take non-casting classes but take a few of the feats that allow casting of cantrips or low-level spells a limited number of times per day.  A wizard would be someone who has learned the ancient forbidden spellcasting techniques of Septicollum.  A druid would be someone who learned their casting from the fey -- doubly forbidden!Details cut for those who do not care... )

matt_doyle: (philosophy)



So, this fall, after my now-epic-level Eberron game concludes, I'm starting up a new campaign. It's set in the Allotment, because I have had a lot of success before running games in worlds I have written about. On the one hand, the setting gets a lot of passion put into it, a lot of logistical detail that often escapes game settings, because the world-building has already been set up to support a narrative. There seems to be a kind of verisimilitude that players relate to very well. On the other hand, if there are holes in my world-building, a group of four or five dedicated, inquisitive, exploitative characters are almost sure to find them, which is a great help to the writing and to fleshing out odd details and twitches of setting.


The trick, of course, is chronology. When do you set such a game, to be certain that it doesn't interfere with the demands of your story? The two choices are after the novel or novels reach conclusion, and the story is safely finished... or far enough in the past that novel characters are unlikely to think or chat about campaign events, and the weight of history can shove any egregious hero-inspired changes back the way the author wants them.


I tend to choose the latter, both because I am then not left with the feeling that my PCs are fiddling with things just when I got them sorted out, and because it's a more concrete help to world-building to explore the past than it is to explore the future. In this case, my upcoming campaign, The Broken Road, is set two centuries before The Hellion Prince, during the long, prosperous, and decadent reign of a King whose subjects jokingly call him The King of Oats and Honey, for he is a major political force to be reckoned with, as autocratic as the Sun King, but immensely fat in his old age, and has sired children (in Antarion, all magically gifted children are automatically legitimized if their parentage is known) across the kingdom.


The party will be a patrol unit of newly-minted Royal Guardsmen. The Royal Guard is one of the few egalitarian, meritocratic institutions in the nation, permitting enrollment and advancement by both commoners and mage-lords . As the game begins, the party is about to embark on their first Long Circuit patrol, a sink-or-swim tradition that takes them out of the comfortable capital on a nine month tour of Outer Baronies, spreading the uneasy influence of central judicial authority to arbitrate legal problems and catch criminals that the local Barons and Baronesses cannot handle.


Given that The Hellion Prince is an England-analog with a roughly early-Georgian society (or if you prefer, since I always joke about it being a “regency romance,” Regence France), rolling it back 200 years gives me the England of Shakespeare and Queen Eilzabeth to work with, which pleases me to no end. One of the most important things for me in the Allotment is to have proportional world-building when it comes to my history – if the Allotment was settled 800 years before Hellion Prince by what were essentially exiled Roman rebels with sorcery, the society at time of settlement should resemble 1000 AD European cultures, and their development should have rational reasons for running along vaguely parallel lines and giving me an 18th-century Britain-doppleganger to work with. Obviously some handwaving is required, but I prefer to actually patch my history together as plausibly as I can, piece by piece, and so it will be interesting to explore the happenings of “The Elizabethan Allotment,” since that's a period of British history that interests me greatly. I'm not sure that I can get my players to declaim their dialogue in Shakespearean blank verse, but I can certainly dress them in period fashions and draw in tropes and situations from Elizabethan romance and drama, and I intend to.


Generally, though, this campaign is an attempt for me to take what I have learned about running a game, and apply it in new ways – hopefully both telling a more organic, character-driven story, and allowing me to learn something new. While I have a very vague outline, I do not yet have anything resembling a full plot for this game – nor do I want one before my four players have created their characters and back-stories, a process which we will all do together, exploring their psychology, their motivation, how and why they will mesh as a team, and making certain they have fully realized 'lives' outside the demands of plot. The Allotment setting has a lot of potential darkness and horror that I want to exploit, and to do that I want a party who values role-playing above expedient, mechanical triumphs, and who can act as a support system when other characters are dealt serious emotional wounds. I also want to know what the players most want out of a game, so that I have a better chance of delivering it to them. Politics or action? Crime-busting or creature-slaying? Faeries or Unfallen? Not that the options are binary by any means, but the more I know their goals and their kinks, the deeper I can draw them in, the more thoroughly I can satisfy them.


Originally I was also planning a lot of blather about the technical tomfoolery necessary to make third-ed D & D mechanics adapt themselves to the demands of the world, but I figured that post was more likely to bore my readership, so unless someone expresses an interest, consider it omitted. 

For that matter, is this game in general, as my players create their alter egos and as the story unfolds, something people would want to hear more about?

As always, I'm eager to hear from you.

matt_doyle: (Default)
These are a few of my favorite things:

-The Eberron Campaign Setting for D & D. Influenced both by film noir and the sensibilities and aesthetics of steampunk, the world of Eberron gives a substantially different (and I think, richer and more nuanced) feel to the world it depicts than most campaign settings. There's a lot more room for moral ambiguity, post-colonial analysis, and moving beyond the familiar tropes of D & D - but enough high adventure, swashbuckling, tomb-raiding grave-robbing and other archaeologically incorrect dungeon-raiding practices (though they're acknowledged as such) to feel like the same game.

-Planetary by Warren Ellis - a vicious look at a world full of superhumans, approaching the genre from a different angle, telling a story that changes your basic assumptions about the moral and practical ramifications of superhero comics while still being a vehicle for one Hell of a story. Also vicious and cynical, which I'm usually a fan of ... but I also read Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane religiously.

I am all about alternative takes on classical media. Which reminds me of a rant, actually, (two rants,. more actually) about the reasons why modern, mainstream superhero comics are getting boring and weighed down by the baggage of their own storytelling tropes ... but, um, maybe I should talk about that some other time?

- TV Tropes, which discusses and deconstructs pretty much every convention, theme, motif, metaphor, trope, and genre in any and every media, including real life. WARNING: Even more addictive than Wikipedia, says the guy who once read nothing but Wikipedia and Questionable Content from 10 PM until noon.

We won't talk about how long I've spent on TV Tropes. We really won't.

-Mackerel sushi.

Long day.

Mar. 21st, 2009 11:07 pm
matt_doyle: (Default)
Had a lot of fun at Game-a-thon today, but it was still a mixed bag. Bad news: low attendance this year meant the minimum number of people my LARP needed (18) was greater than the total number of people there today (in past years, we've usually had between 30 and 50 at any given time, and 80-120 total over the course of the weekend) ... so my LARP was canceled. That does, however, mean I can run it at ValleyCon this fall, and all of you who thought it sounded cool can (hypothetically) come to Fargo and play in it.

There was a smaller, D&D-based LARP tonight, and that was entertaining - my aging priest of Pelor lost half his money gambling on illegal boxing, spent as much as he could on drinks, and went home at the end of the night with his new, barely-legal wife and the lady of the evening who performed his marriage ceremony in the back of the bar (as it happens, their idea, not his/mine).

No, I wasn't behaving out of character - by doing the above, I accomplished every goal listed on my character sheet with zeal and gusto, above and beyond what was suggested.
matt_doyle: (Default)
Here's the basic info sheet for the LARP.


Evening, ladies and gents. Welcome to Chicago. My name’s Chuckles Cavanaugh, retired shyster and executor of Diamond Jim Colosimo’s estate. This club? I inherited it from Jim. My sizeable associate in the corner, with the prominently displayed blackjack? That’s Knuckles Davenport. He’ll be your waiter this evening.

I think we all know why we’re here. Jim’s dead. I saw a lot of you at his funeral. They still don’t have any leads on who killed him, but that’s beside the point – Hell, for all I know it was one of you. I’m more concerned with the fact that we still don’t know who broke into my office and mislabeled the shipment of his bequests – Diamond Jim’s diamonds. He wanted them sent out to everyone he’d done good business with. I guess that means some introductions are in order. Mister Hymie Weiss and his associates are here representing the North Side Mob; Mister Alphonse Capone and his associates will be representing the South Side Mob. The rest of you, I gather, were privy to another branch of Jim’s business interests – the antiquities trade, or something like it? Jim acquired a lot of unique merchandise. I understand that Mister Redford’s little club or secret society – the Incarnadine Order? – doesn’t tend to get along with you Family types, you Ritters and Tartinis and such – are you here as one group or several? – but in any case, we’re all civilized businesspeople here, aren’t we, able to co-operate in everybody’s best interests to get this mess all sorted out?

It’s business that brings us here. Now that Diamond Jim is dead and gone, who fills his shoes? Are we going to be going into the bootlegging dodge, or staying out of it like Jim wanted? Who’s going to sort out this mess with the diamonds? Who’s going to take over his rare items business as an impartial middleman? Are we going to hold onto old grudges, or let them go?

So come on in, have a drink, and see what kind of hand of cards this evening is going to deal you.

The diamonds are Jim’s legacy. The clubs are where the action’s at, these days. The spades, we need to hide the bodies.

What’s that you say? Hearts?

Go fish.
matt_doyle: (Default)
"I don't want to write the Great American Novel," was my refrain throughout college when I introduced myself as a writer. "Besides, Neil Gaiman already did that. American Gods. Read it. Me, I want to reinvent the dime pulp novel. Cheap, exciting, and all about story. I want the reputation for lovable hackwork that Stephen King has."

Naturally, like any claim any writer makes about themselves or their ambitions, that should be treated with suspicion. The truth is, of course, that I plan to be the most prolific and celebrated author in the history of writing, with parades and holidays and such in my honor, universally acclaimed a creative genius the likes of which has never been seen. I wish to simultaneously be the next-generation brainchild of Alan Moore, Gene Wolfe, Joss Whedon, and Neil Gaiman.

I have also, you know, repeatedly told people that by the ten-year reunion of my high school class, I will be living in a refrigerator box tucked in a dead-end alley somewhere, and work my art in haiku form on the wall of the McDonald's men's room.

Writers lie to you. That's what we want to do for a living, after all.

Concretely, though, there are three different types of writing that draw my interest above anything else, that I have focused on so far and intend to continue my efforts in.

First, role-playing games. I learned to play Dungeons and Dragons back in the fifth grade, using a mix of first and second-edition books and five d6. The fact that the rules were utterly incoherent when we attempted to apply them that way was lost on me - honestly, my friends and I had been focused on make-believe games of fantasy worlds, swashbuckling adventure, and hot demon women in chainmail bikinis already; some arbitrary rules and things to roll on the carpet didn't change too much.

But it stuck with me. You can say what you may about high art versus hackwork, but I will tell you that the most rewarding damn storytelling I've ever done has always been sitting at the head of a table of half a dozen creative and impertinent people, trying to keep them spellbound and razzle-dazzled so that they don't out-think my nice neat plot and go off in a direction I haven't prepared for. And in the best games, of course, they always do. I DM two games a week right now, something that's been pretty constant since about my sophomore year of college. I have presided over the rise and fall of armies, empires, and gods, and it's taught me more about solid world-building and fool-proofing my plot holes than any class I ever took. If I could find a place to work professionally writing games, I'd do it in a hot second.

Of course, that wouldn't keep me from writing other things, too. Like comic books. I was never interested in comic books as a kid, and even in high school, until a very pretty and devastatingly intelligent girl who sat next to me in study hall showed me a drawing one day, and started explaining the awesome epic story it was part of. I was smitten, by the story as much as the girl (who is still my best friend), and I still am. I do, however, have Distinct and Literary Opinions about comics, which come not from too much exposure to the works of Alan Moore and Scott McCloud, but from being a long-time Spider-Man fan having to put up with Joe Quesada.

And if what I just said there made sense to you? Tell me, so we can talk about it!

I have also, as you may have heard me mention (six dozen times, if I had you friended on my old journal), just completed my first novel. I have gradually come to conclude that when it coems to books, I am going to be an author of dark fantasy. This was not a conscious decision on my part; I just looked down at the big list of Novels I Needed To Write one day, and realized that they were all lurking somewhere in between YA Fantasy and Gothic Horror.

Except for the Western. But that's different.


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January 2014



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