Friday, 15 February 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Should smell...something something...

DnD Online Games, the site I have been playing, running and discussing DnD and role-playing in general for over 8 years, has had a recent name-change.  After much consideration and thought, we've emerged as RPG Crossing, an attempt to welcome and support players from a range of games, editions, systems, and so on.  Much as I'll miss the old familiarity of "DnDOG", the new name has already proven fruitful, as it came along with a new server, and without a whole lot of old, tired site errors.

What is in a name?

But this is more than a post about where to go for your play-by-post gaming needs (, remember! :) )!  The change of name got me thinking about names in RPGs in general.  I have often found the hardest part of character creation is the name.  Choosing appropriate, meaningful names for characters has always been a challenge, a task almost as hard as choosing names for my children!  Although, that example in itself shows a big difference between roleplaying and real life.

Most of us haven't chosen our own names, in our real life.  Sure, some of us may have chosen to take on our partner's name when we were married, or perhaps created our own names if we weren't fortunate enough to be born already awesome.  But I would guess that a majority of us haven't really changed our names that much since our parents decided on them, and had it put on our birth certificate.  That's a big difference between our experienced lives and our role-playing stories.  Maybe we should ask the DM what our parents called us?  Or turn to random name generators for advice?

Family Traditions

I know some folk stick to certain methods for their character's names.  Some might only ever want to use hidden puns or cryptic meanings within them; others name them after famous chess players.  One might elect to use a foreign language to translate a word that has special meaning, whilst another may look about the room, choose an object at random, and then add a "K" to the front.  There are players who only want to play characters called the same name as themselves, or possibly some other name that each of their characters shares.  Maybe a character's name includes their occupation, their race, or even their notable characteristics.

Writer's Block

So what do you do?  Do you go for a quick and easy name, or do you think about making it appropriate for the setting and the history of your character?  Do you name them based on what they will do, or have done? Or is their title given to them by their parents, with no knowledge of who they will become? Does their name stick out amongst like a sore thumb their peers, or has it been adapted to fit the setting? How do you choose your character's names?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 3, Chapter 1)

These posts are copies of my emails from our DnD group's downtime chatter.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust. Whilst effort was taken to follow Dark Sun canon, there are undoubtedly bits where our story strays or contradicts stuff.  We're aware, and not playing to create new canon, but to have fun.  So, read on and enjoy!

Kulo, was angry.  He seemed to always be angry, but after returning from the pyramid, he had anger on top of anger, and his company became hard for the others to put up with.  By the following morning, he was gone, leaving their reclaimed Shom-warehouse without notice.  Not even Bundaberg had awoken to Kulo,'s gathering of his few belongings.

Kulo, didn't travel far; he headed directly for the one place he knew best in the city, and the one place he thought he could let off some steam without bringing undue attention to himself.  Whilst they had searched the markets the other day, he had heard rumours that some slaves had returned to the fighting pits.  Unlike Beren's insane allegiance to his former master, these gladiators returned, not to be slaves once more, but to excel at what they did best - at the only thing they knew how to do.  To fight.

Fortunately, the rumours were fruitful, and he found more than a few able bodies sparring back and forth in the arena.  There was talk about getting another competition running - one in which people chose to fight, that battles weren't to the death, and that victors won the spoils for themselves.  It could be a great way to earn a living, if organised well.  For now, no one had stepped forward to organise it - at least, no one that a majority of others agreed upon.  The hopeful contestants simply sparred, practised, and hoped to make enough to live by from those spectators who felt generous enough to part with some ceramic.

The group was welcoming enough to see Kulo,, though it was hard for him to work out who seemed the most timid: those that knew him from his gladiator days, or as Ulruun the Repugnant's bodyguard, or as one of those who had braved Kalak's pyramid, and returned with the Sorcerer-King's head.  Still, for every would-be gladiator who seemed to step gingerly around his shadow, another two simply saw a heavy-set half-giant, who wore viciously barbed links of chains around his shoulders. 

Kulo, didn't return to the warehouse over the next week, electing instead to sleep at the barracks and spend all his waking hours training with the other fighters.  Part of him just wanted a return to a simple life, but he hated that part, almost as much as he hated Beren's obedience to his old master.  The rest of him knew that there was a mess coming his way - coming all their way - and he wanted to be prepared for it.  He wanted as many people around him prepared for it.  So what if they thought they were merely training for fun and profit?  He was refining  their edge, just as they were sharpening him, making each other stronger, faster, and more equipped for repelling whatever Urik was sending their way. By the end of the week, his skill had improved such that he could add a few links to his chain.  He could now successfully, and repetitively, hit a target standing fifteen feet away from him, and had worked up quite a bit of skill in knocking and shifting people around the battlefield to where he wanted them.  He was impressed, and those that faced him also seemed to be wary of his lashing chains that could drag an escaping opponent to his feet, or could throw away an aggressive foe and leave them standing on their own. 

Kulo, was happy with his training, with the new tricks he had learnt and mastered...but that happiness was more of a reluctant acceptance, compared with the anger that still stewed within him.  There was work that needed to be done, further preparations that needed to be made, and stolen items that needed to be retrieved.  And so it was, after a week long absence, that Kulo, finally returned to the warehouse, to his son Kuoroar!, and to the others that he had fought alongside.  Hopefully, they had some ideas as to just what they would do next.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Drow of Xen'drik (part 6)

These posts are copies of the summary emails I write for our DnD group. The current mini-adventure is an Eberron tale, set in the jungles of Xen'drik, where the party are taking the roles of drow (and one dwarf). Whilst I take great effort to follow Eberron canon, there are undoubtedly bits where my story strays or contradicts stuff. I'm aware, this is my story, and we're not playing to create new canon, but to have fun. So, read on and enjoy!


The Plateau

The journey was simple and fast - just like any good teleportation trip should be.  The party arrived on the plateau they had seen from the Azure Tower, and thanks to their invisibility, had some time to look about themselves.  The large plateau stretching out before them was carved out of the mountainside.  It's formation was not natural - it had been cut into the mountain, the displaced rubble tossed down the ravine to fall many miles below.  With a sharp cliff dropping away to their east, and the rest of the mountain towering overhead to the west, they were left with but one other feature: a large, twisting path spiralling up to a peak some hundred and fifty feet above their heads.  Nearly a hundred feet up the path was a large door, leading into the thin, twisted tower, but they couldn't get to the door immediately. 

Between the tower and drow were two groups of five individuals.  Standing around rune circles, arms held high, they muttered strange words, the wind carrying the indecipherable blabber carelessly across the mountainside.  In the middle of them, a lone crystal stood, about five feet wide and nearly twice that tall.  It pulsated with hues of purple and orange magic, and was clearly the focus of their ritualistic chanting.  Other, similarly focused groups were standing around the tower; with his newly enhanced vision, Quayanorl counted five in total.

None of them noticed the invisible drow approaching; not, that is, until Brenna decided that it was best to leap straight to the point.  Fire flew from her outstretched hands, even as her party members ran and scattered, wanting to put as much distance between themselves and the now-visible sorceress.  But even as she regained her visible form, those she attacked winced, but continued with their chanting. 

The Seekers

Quay naturally saw him first, as the shadows held no power over his sight, but he had never met the Umbragen seeker before, and so didn't know the relevance of his presence until Curra's snarling voice came from behind him.  "Ek'ann!"

Ek'ann Torkak looked at her with a nasty smile. "Yes, my dear", he responds, "Delightful to have you join us at last."  As he speaks, two more drow, similar in dress to those they had fought in the giant's ruins (right down to their lacking of legs), appear from the shadows and trail along behind him.  "I do hope you are here to help us, yes?"

It was never really an option for the group to side with Ek'ann, no matter what nonsense he spilled before them.  D'Jhudi'it knew this best of all, but also wanted to know just what was at foot, and so tried to play along.  "We are here to open the portal to Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams, of course...hasn't Curra told you this?  That was, after all, the purpose of our visions!"  The assassin told them of their plans, eagerly enough, though even he suspected their ultimate decision.  "The arrival of the Quori is inevitable...but if we aid them, if we open the door and welcome them in, we will have such power as to make all of the Sulatar's magic seem like mere children's tricks!"

None were convinced - at least, not enough to make them join his side.  In a last ditch effort at persuasion, Ek'ann asked "Curra, you know that the vision we shared showed the Quori's inevitable arrival and victory, and great power to those who would help quicken their coming.  Why fight what has to happen? Why play for the losing side?"  But still, they chose to fight.

The Portal Opens

Ryltar in particular took a beating that day, his body being knocked to the ground time after time, only to be raised up by whatever strange spirits Kami kept whispering to.  At times, it might have seemed that the pirate was playing out some sick desire of hers to watch the scorrow suffer so much pain, not letting him ever quite slip away into Dolurrh's cold embrace.  But Kami, just like everyone else, was fighting for her life.

At first, the party seemed to be winning, taking down Ek'ann's lackeys quickly, and disrupting the rituals at the same time.  but when they though they had the assassin beaten, he showed his final play.  For just as each of the individuals chanting around the crystals was inhabited by a quori spirit (which was released upon the vessel's death), so too did Ek'ann have an other-worldly visitor sharing his physical body.  With a final cry of defiance, he raised his arms and shouted, "Minharath, take me now!".  As blood poured from his wounds, a dark presence seeped from his very body.  A shadow formed, surrounding him and towering over the others, as the quori beast found a way into this realm.

Around the battlefield, some rituals were faltering, whilst others seemed to be working as intended.  Two of the crystals grew dark, as more of the shadow-portals ripped open above them, and more figures stepped through.  Eladrin with blades of mist stood before the crystals to offer defence, even as Brenna destroyed the first crystal, in a backlash that killed the remaining vessels attached to it via the ritual.  But still, a dark loud was forming atop the tower.

The Quori General

It was Bel'Tarayne who took off around the tower, moving solo in order to take out the crystals and cut off the connection to Dal Quor.  Sure, the others had suggested as much, directed him to move that way, but ultimately, the decision was his.  If only they had sent another to aid him, the party's losses might not have been as steep.

As it was, whilst Kami and Ryltar worked at sending Minharath's incorporeal form back to the Region of Dreams, Bel' took down another crystal.  The unleashed quori were too much for him, though, and he fell to the ground, hard.  D'Jhudi'it moved carefully to his side, but despite her best efforts, the mage could only be stabilised, not woken.  And then, as the fourth crystal erupted under deluges of fire and lightning, the creature known as Tras'nhilya broke through realities.

The creature flew swiftly into battle, a nightmarish mass of limbs, tentacles, and teeth, and brought great pain to those nearby.  All those who experienced its attacks would have visions of it disrupting their sleep for years to come, and many of the wounds it caused would never heal properly.  Still, together they stood, trying not to defeat, but simply survive, the monster's attacks. 

It was Brenna who started the battle, with her frantic and spontaneous attack; but in many ways, it was Brenna who ended it, too.  Sneaking around the tower, she faced a wave of quori, and fought through them to destroy the final crystal.  As it shattered, it cut off Eberron's connection to Dal Quor, closing the portals, and trapping the quori in their home plane. But what had passed through did not instantly return.

Tras'nhilya cried out in anguish, not yet fully manifested, and clawed frantically at the fabric of reality.  Its form wavered, losing the structure and substance it once had, but even as a wispy shadow creature, it was still dangerous.  Once more, it moved to rip through them, but this time, with the encouragement from the portal's closure, they fought back with vengeance.  Even as D'Jhudi'it's mind succumbed to the overlapping nightmares from countless quori attacks, Quayanorl and the others moved forward, and destroyed the general's last remaining hold on their realm.  With relief, they watched his dream-like form dissipate into the air.

The Aftermath

Ek'ann was dead, the quori threat defeated and repelled, and none of the vessels left to restart the ritual.  For now, Eberron was safe, though some truth of the fallen Seeker's promise still lingered.  In time, the quori would try to break through once again.  The cost still weighed on the party - D'Jhudi'it was dead, something that Ryltar felt more than the others; Bel'Tarayne's mind had as many scars as Ryltar's body, and would probably never get another restful night's sleep; and they all shared in the horror of the events that had happened.  They had won, but they were weary, injured, and barely able to point the direction to their home, let alone make the trek there.  But, they kept telling themselves, Xen'drik was no longer under an immediate risk of invasion.  At least, not from Dal Quor, and not in any time soon.  Surely, that was something to savour and celebrate.