Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Greyhawk, Rejoice Over Spouse's Selection

Greetings! Real life became incredibly busy in September, as it does every year due to school starting, hockey season starting, and a number of family birthdays. That led to a busy October (more birthdays, Halloween preparation), an even busier November (more birthdays, Thanksgiving preparation), and we-all-know-how-busy-December-is. Thus, blogging took a back seat to all of that and the busyness of being a parent of a 14 year-old son, a 3 year-old son, and a 1 year-old daughter brings. Now, though, I get to report on an awesome event!

"It" took me awhile to recover from the shock: "It" has finally happened. After six plus years as a married couple, my wife told me before the weekend of July 23-24 that she wanted to roll up a character and try her hand at Tabletop Roleplaying Games (TRPGs). I was so surprised and happy that I froze, in reaction. She made it known by asking if we could travel to a couple of gaming stores so that she could purchase her own dice.

After selecting two sets of dice containing the usual 7 dice needed to play, we rolled up a character later that week. (Did I mention free time is scarce?) It was, indeed, the same week that Gary Gygax Day occurs. My wife had rolled up a PC in Method I fashion (via the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Dungeon Master's Guide). She said she wanted to run two PCs, all by herself, so she could get accustomed to the rules and the game before trying to play with anyone else.

We have since played some form of AD&D either by ourselves in my wife's "solo campaign" and in a larger campaign with my son and my brother-in-law (now over two years old) a LOT since August 1st. It may have slowed down because of school, hockey, and the holidays, but I am so thrilled!

It is refreshing playing with someone brand new to Tabletop Role-playing Games (TRPGs). My wife knows of fantasy tropes because of her experience watching many sci-fi and fantasy movies & TV shows (like Legend, The Last Unicorn, Willow), reading MANY books, watching me host and run TRPGs over the last several years, our occasional watching of Critical Role on Geek & Sundry together, and through watching other people's tabletop games online. She is well-read in Mercedes Lackey's works, especially.

***WARNING -- CAMPAIGN LOG TO ENSUE (skip below for TL; DR version)***

Before long, Morna Raenar en Eryn (Olven, translates to "Storm Walker of the Woods"), olven magic-user of the Welkwood was created along with Zharina Török, human fighter of Sterich. My wife had no issue with placing her characters in my World of Greyhawk campaign. It did not take long to start playing. She came up with their meeting somewhere between Sterich and the Kingdom of Celene.

Zharina had previously stumbled upon an owlbear cub and named him Ozbert. Her family was put out by her adopted pet (figuring it would be dangerous), so Zharina took to the road. After meeting Morna, the olvenwoman invites Zharina to return with her to the Welkwood, where her father is Captain of the Guard of the Northern Welkwood, a Celene post, along the border with the Gnarley Forest. Morna suggests someone in Celene might be able to help Zharina with Ozbert's future (because owlbears are believed to become feral by the time they mature to adulthood).

At the start of the campaign, Zharina, Morna, Ozbert, and the pretentious red-tailed hawk, Captain Sable Diamond (Morna's familiar) reach The Gnarly Oak Coaching Inn & Tavern (thanks to +Steve C for sharing this cool locale!). It sits on the road between Verbobonc, an independent town to the west, and Narwell, member city of The Wild Coast to the east. Morna is greeted by Lamurne, the proprietor and family friend, and the traveling pair are seated while their animal companions rest outside. After the wench receives their orders, a group of four (one woman and three men) enters the Inn and sits at a nearby table. Morna and Zharina overhear their talking about missing children. The eldest male, Hagar, father to the other two men, seems to be trying to dismiss the woman's obvious worries while his son, the woman's husband, tries to console her. He scolds his father for taking the matter so lightly. It is revealed four of the missing children are the woman's. Nine kids are missing, 5 boys and 4 girls, in total. They range in age from 8 to 12.

While this conversation is happening, one of the dwurfolk enters the Inn and sits at another nearby table, his own empty mug already in hand. He has an empty scabbard (his sword being checked in upon entering, like everyone else) and a runic tattoo on his right shoulder. The dwur catches some of the conversation at the other table and tells of a band of goblins he had seen earlier this very day west of the Inn -- near the pond where the children were said to be fishing the day before, it turns out. Zharina asks the dwur for more details. She finds out that the kids' fishing equipment was gone when he had passed by, but their towels and blankets were still near the water's edge. Morna takes the woman outside to console her, as she cries at this news.

Zharina offers the dwur to join her in forming a search party with her olvenfolk friend, but he declines, as he is newly-retired from adventuring because he wants to open his own tavern. In fact, the dwur is here to see this very tavern, as its fame is widespread. He is thinking about building one like it, but with dwarven influence in its design, decor, and fare. "How does 'Tenkar's Gnarly Tavern' sound?" he asks out loud. He then introduces himself as Tenkar, one of the dwurfolk of the Lortmil Mountains. (The dwarven NPC is a nod to +Erik Tenkar and his wonderfully informative site and its encouragement of community within the ranks of the Old School Renaissance.) Tenkar suggests his friend, Arkzud, join them instead. Arkzud is Tenkar's contact here and former adventuring associate, he says. He then calls to Lamurne, asking her to fetch Arkzud. He follows Lamurne upstairs to Arkzud's guest room, when she replies that Arkzud is likely still in bed.

Zharina soon asks Hagar for provisions for the search and he dispatches his younger son, Gargan, back to their homestead to get supplies (torches, lanterns, oil, foodstuffs). Gargan gazes longingly at the warrior woman as he leaves, a smitten man.

A dwarf at another nearby table stands and addresses Zharina. A cleric of Fortubo, he holds his hammer aloft and says he will take Tenkar's place as "dwur substitute" in the search party. Zharina agrees to this.

Tenkar soon returns down the stairs, boxing the ears of a halfling, "Ye'd best make some money soon -- my coin was to pay for your travel here and find out if the rumors of the Gnarly Oak's grand design were true. That was weeks ago! ...You!" he says to Zharina, "You and your elven friend. Please take this miserable excuse for a hobbit and make him earn his keep. His sneaky ways may prove useful. Maybe he can help you find the children -- and goblins." At this, Arkzud bows and his feather promptly falls into Zharina's held mug of honey mead. "Charmed," she musters, probably wanting to sock the uncharismatic prat.

***END OF CAMPAIGN LOG PORTION***

Rather than bore with more of what was a typical Tavern party formation, suffice to say my wife enjoyed the role-playing elements of the game and slid into it without thinking about it. Earlier in the week, she balked at talking "in character" but once it happened that a NPC was talking with her, she just used her normal voice to "be" both Zharina and Morna.

Since that first week of August (when we first began actual play), we have played quite a bit -- even if for no more than 30 minutes. My wife has put together ideas of a "stable" of characters like my brother and I used to do in the 1980s. Both PCs were discovered to be the youngest of 5 (per her using the other sourcebooks to help flesh out the characters' family backgrounds) and she later fleshed out all 5 elves and 3 of the 5 humans (deciding 2 of those are merchants in Sterich).

As my TRPG preferences are 1e AD&D (AKA OAD&D, but also includes the very nicely put together +OSRIC game book) and Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert D&D (AKA B/X D&D), I am trying to keep the game more in tune with them than with the games played since 2000. I am trying to come up with more ideas on how to find a middle ground, though. I re-read a Facebook discussion I have had over the years with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) creator, +Jeff Talanian, and he hit on things I want to avoid. Where I prefer AD&D most is in terms of class abilities. Thief skills, for instance, are given a flat percentage chance in AD&D and increase over time, as the thief increases in level. In more modern games (3e D&D, C&C, etc.), the thief's rogue's bonuses to his abilities increase, but so do the "Difficulty" or "Challenge" of the things he is trying to accomplish. As Jeff put it, locks are locks in AD&D but in the newer games the increase is countered by more difficult locks. It is unnecessary sliding of both ability and challenge. In video game terms, the world levels with you -- one of the characteristics of Oblivion (of The Elder Scrolls series from Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks) that I loathed when I first tried playing it. I am keeping an eye on +Chris Gonnerman's +Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game to inform my game. The whole reason for switching to AD&D back in 1982 was because that's what kids in our new town were playing when we moved there. My brother and I liked the idea of separating race and class. BFRPG keeps that separation while still feeling like Moldvay Basic/Cook Expert. Some of the tools in the aforementioned AS&SH and +Joseph Bloch's +Adventures Dark and Deep are getting consideration, too, as I have mentioned before.

Thanks for reading my ramblings!

Happy gaming,
Michael

P.S. I'll probably abandon the shtick of naming each blog via the G.R.O.S.S. formula soon. Hopefully, sticking to it this time did not prevent folks from reading.

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