Thursday, April 28, 2011

Never Split The Party?

Ah, the age-old adage of of never splitting the party. Trouble for the party if they do and trouble for the DM as well.

How does a DM manage letting the players do what they want in a sandbox setting even when they decide to go their separate ways? BTW, this is in response to Rob Connely's comment on ChicagoWiz's blog responding to the conversation on Blackrazors sandbox post (who says this isn't a tight-knit community?)

Different from ChicagoWiz's session methods, I do continue where the session left off. If in a dungeon we begin from that point, if the last session ended in town then the time between the sessions pass in game time as well. If we begin the session in this manner, then players can decide what they have been doing during that time (visiting family, drinking and whoring, etc). I deal with each player, if need be, quickly and individually just to validate his/her actions.

It's very important that once the session begins in earnest that you try to keep all players at the table involved. If the players split up (which does happens occasionally), then the way I handle it is to focus on each separate 'party' for a while until there is a breaking point or resolution. During this time, the player's adventure/role-playing and my interaction with him/them should be the focus of the table. Some times it's not as there is much table talk but many times the the interaction is involving enough that the other players chime in with jokes or ideas. In other words, keep the in-active players involved by letting them participate in whatever way they want. They may toss the DM a good line to use, or a situational idea. Regardless, role-playing at the table usually becomes the entertainment.

Also, if the separated player chances upon an encounter, let the other players role those characters or run them during combat. That makes it easier for the DM as that is much less to keep track of at the table.

Let that scenario play out for as long as it can or as long as it needs to. Believe it or not, the DM can 'guide' things a long much more than you think without the trappings of the ol' railroad.

Read your players. Are they all loosing interest at the table and breaking down into non-game conversations? Some of that is okay when the party splits but you'll know when it's getting out of hand. But by keeping them involved and letting them participate will keep the focus on the events at the game table.

Now, if one of your player's characters wants to go off on his/her own; quest/treasure hunting etc. let them. Remember, once a session begins, time passing during the game tends to go pretty slow. Dungeon exploration may only last an hour or two in game. The external party member, during this time, is out doing his own thing, thus he may be out of that sessions play. Have that player either roll up another character to play or run a hireling/NPC. My players have brought a number of NPCs and hirelings to life using this method. Again, let them participate in the creation of the world (less work for the busy DM). Obviously, the player's missing character will not gain any experience during that session.

From there, I would deal with the players separate adventure either in a separate one on one session or via email or something like that. Who knows, that may lead to a whole number of different scenarios for your entire party as they wonder why the heck their companion never returned.

Always try to accommodate your players, that's your job. It's their game just as much as yours. Be flexible and always say YES.

Also keep in mind that separating the party can be a very dangerous proposition especially in the wild or in a dungeon. Hear that? DANGEROUS. That should be all a party needs to stick together.

If anyone else has any other suggestions on how they deal with splitting the party feel free to share.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

World Building With Vaughn Bode

World building for games can take on many forms; rough sketches, detailed notes, maps, NPCs, graph paper, hex paper, dice rolling, etc. Many times, the players may never explore more than a few hexes out from their home base, never seeing the full color worlds created my many GMs but the process the creator goes through adds an unseen depth to the campaign.

The early days of the hobby were influenced by the pulp stories of the 30's and 40's as well as the fantasy revival of the 60's and 70's. You can see it in the gritty and at times whimsical recollections, modules and articles of the time. It was an anything goes playing field.

1960's / 1970's fantasy cartoonist, Vaughn Bode created his erotic whimsical fantasy worlds with an unbridled creativity seldom seen these days. Creator of Cheech Wizard and the apocolyptic Cobolt 60 in a unique voluptuous cartoon style was seen by those who may have picked up the underground independent comics of the time.

One world he created in 1968 was called Deadbone:
"Back a billion years, before man, before the dinosaur, before the plankton, before life was thought to exist in even the most rudimentary existed!...Life which belonged to a world as alien as those of a black that cycled and orbited in an evil and insane universe that looked for, but never found, 'our' brand of sanity."
What is interesting is the way he created his world; in a very visual style of world building (click image to embiggen):

What a fantastic way to create a world! A couple of the maps even look like city/underworld adventure maps. Some scribbled notes around the images with details to be filled in later.

Of course, with the psychedelic mind of Vaughn Bode, this peculiar and weird world was populated as well with all manner of Lizard, Broads, and bizarre unique characters.

A whimsical twisted fantasy world. A great campaign world. A great world-building exercise.

Check out Vaughn Bode in action
(Very interesting video clips especially the Toronto ComiCon '74 clips)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fantasy Image Dump

Doing a little digital cleaning and I had these lying around on my HD. Apparently I had pulled these to be used for some long forgotten posts. Inspirations? Probably....


Monday, April 18, 2011

Monster: Crypt Crawler

(also known as Crotch-Goblins by seasoned adventurers)

These 4 foot tall, thin yet quite strong cave dwellers with ash grey skin live in complete darkness and use sound to “see”. They communicate with a series of clicks and screeches. Their faces are completely eyeless with but a large toothy mouth. Crypt Crawlers scavenge and hunt in packs. They attack twice with their claws but may leap onto a victim and try to bite them. They eat the decayed flesh off the bones of corpses but are vicious and prefer to eat fresh flesh.

Crypt Crawlers/Crotch Goblins:
HD: 1d6; AC 9[10]; Atk 2 claws 1d3 or Atk 1 bite 1d6; Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP B10; Special: After 2 successful claw attacks in the same round will cling to victim and bite.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to the Post-Apocalypse

Ahh, yes. One of my favorite, if not the favorite, genre - the post apocalyptic theme. Always loved this concept as far back as I can remember. The idea of man not being 'King of the World' anymore - to being just a supporting cast member in the ruins of his once might civilization has always thrilled me.

Maybe it was those Kamandi comics I read as a kid? Planet of the Apes infinite loop stories? Soylent Green? Omega Man? These are the images and stories I loved as a kid. Will man burn-out or fade away? Most likely fade away - with a whimper.

One common thread in most of these stories is society breaking down - and quickly at that. Martial law, chaos, riots, mass shootings, mass graves…Grim world indeed but probably true if humanity faced the end of it's civilization. Face it, we're pussies in the scale of the universe.

What's usually left is a scattering of humans roaming the ruined wastelands. Rules? There are no rules. It's survival, man!

So here's a list of some of the movies and stories that really capture the good and bad of this future world. If you haven't yet, go watch the books and read the movies!

Kamandi - Jack Kirby's comic about the last boy on earth. Great inspiration but by this time, Kirby's high-octane writing can leave you breathless. Must read.

Judge Dredd - 2000AD hero of Megacities and the Cursed Earth. One of the best comics (the movie sucked ass). Must read.

Daybreak 2250 A.D. (Andre Norton) 1952 novel full of mutants and a small population of humans. Gamma World inspiration. Good read.

Thundarr the Barbarian - Saturday morning cartoon. Best portrayal of a post 1994 Mutant Future!

Star Barbarian - Great Sci-Fi concept of humanities colonization of the stars only to revert back to barbarism. Great concept but didn't like the book that much.

I Am Legend (1954 Richard Matheson) and it's various film adaptations Omega Man, I Am Legend, Last Man On Earth) Good stories in either form.

Alas Babylon (1959 Pat Frank) Post Apocalyptic radiation = bad. Good read.

The Day After - 1980's American television program about the hopeless doom after a nuclear war. Meh.

The Day After Tomorrow - I haven't seen this post-climatic apocalyptic story. Written by Whitely Strieber

The Stand (Stephen King) The plague and the fall of humanity and the traveling across country is great stuff . Didn't get much into the battle of good and evil. Movies, book, comic - all good.

The Road - This ain't no beatnick journey! I haven't read the book but the movie was quite depressing and horrific. Not the post-apocalyptic world I want to live in. Bleak! Bleak! But watch it anyway.

The Planet of the Apes - The infinite loop concept of the movies is great in an of itself. Very good.

Plant Guy - Comic book written by me! Mutant plants, the Roctopus! A must read!

Soylent Green - Part of Chuck Heston's 1970's gun toting apocalyptic fury. Nuff said.

The Road Warrior Trilogy - "A fella' , a smart fella might have a weapon under there." Must see.

Night of the Living Dead and it's sequels - The classic first film captures the quick descent into savagery better than almost any other story. Oh and don't forget the zombies! Must see many times.

The Walking Dead - Speaking of zombies, these series is pretty gruesome and hopeless but the humans fight on. The comic is good too. Must See.

Ever Since The World Ended - Survivors in a post plague world eek out a society in this documentary style film. Very good.

The War Game - A banned documentary from 1965 showing society's breakdown despite best efforts of the government in post nuclear Britain. Depressing but must see.

The Quiet Earth - Last man on earth movie. Very good.

A Boy And His Dog - Young Don Johnson's foray into the post Apocalypse. Good.

Children Of Men - Sterile humanity - End Of Line. Distopian must see .

Blindness - Blindness messes with humanity in a big way. Heavy and depressing.

Knowing - If you love the ancient astronaut theory this movie's for you! I loved this.

28 Days Later - Romero inspired end of the world zombie flick. Must See

Delicatessen - What's the post apocalypse without cannibalism? Weird

Night of the Comet - Valley girls go shopping at the end of the world. Fair, very 1980's

If anyone has any other suggestions, please let the world know before it's too late.

UPDATED: This just in....To coincide with this blog post was the release of the teaser trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Sometimes we're our own worst enemy...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sean Connery 007 Number One!

Yes, it's official. Sean Connery gave the world the number one portrayal of Ian Flemming's iconic British secret agent James Bond 007 as voted by you visiting Warlocks!

Now, there is no doubt that Connery brought to the screen character a certain suave fortitude and a sense of class that has never quite been matched. But there were many other elements that brought that character to life on the screen and solidified the early Bond films and influenced the entire genre of the 1960's spy.

When talking about those early films starting with Dr. No (1962) and going all the way up to Diamonds Are Forever (1970) it would be impossible to not mention the other three pillars of this series; music composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adams and James Bond creator himself, Ian Flemming

Scenery, Scenery, Scenery

The production design of Ken Adams helped define the mod space in which our British Agent faced his foes and bedded his women. Adams use of a sleek spacious modern architecture being sure to include the ceiling (rare for the time period) and forced perspective added a sense of spectacular realism and power to both the good and the evil. Many of the sets in the early films left just as much of an impression with the viewer as did the beautiful women and the action. Scenes depicting Goldfinger's Kentucky ranch or SPECTRE's headquarters or even the unforgettable rocket launchpad beneath a volcano (with an actual rocket!) bound Bond in the 60's.

Adams would be brought back in the later Bond films form time to time and you'd always be able to catch his style. But his edgy sets from the 60's defined not only a genre but an era.

Double 'O' Music

The other consistent element in these early Bond films were the scores written by John Barry. His sweeping violins contrasted nicely with his modern swinging jazz sounds of drums, trumpet and electric guitar. Barry's sounds added that level of class, sex-appeal and action that rounded out the film version of the characters and situation. Though he didn't score the theme for the first film Dr. No, he did compose the famous guitar / horn blasting James Bond theme (often attributed to Monte Norman). His themes for Goldfinger, Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever (as well as the others) carried the viewer to the far exotic locals where Bond would face off with the deadly agents of SPECTRE.

John Barry would be brought back for many of the modern Bond films in the 70's and beyond. John Barry passed away earlier this year.

Words, Bond's Words

It would be impossible to write about James Bond without mentioning his creator Ina Flemming. Flemming's novels were violent, sexy and quite thrilling as the movies were to become but always ground in a certain realism (which the later films parted with). The development of the character which continued from book to book with the classy pulp style of Flemming wasn't afraid to take chances with his character making him quite human and vulnerable to love and death. One major aspect of these early James Bond films were they're close adherence to the original Flemming novels. Of the first seven films, five of them remained quite true to the novels (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and On Her Majesties Secret Service) which helped solidify the film character. The other two films, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever, parted from the novels taking only the title and the villain and going off into more fantasy adventures (which defined all the films from the early 70's onward). The books were thrilling cold-war spy dramas and the early films, although updated somewhat to the 1960's, enhanced that with the actor, music and set design and set the tone for action films to come.

Perhaps one of these other actors could have carried the early films as well as Connery. With the aid of Barry, Adams and Flemming himself it's possible that could have been the case. It was done with On Her Majesties Secret Service staring George Lazenby (a Bond film fan favorite that perhaps could have been better played by Connery?), but Connery's charisma and natural class cemented him and the series into the exploding pop culture of the 60's.

And to help you get through your Tuesday, the Bond girls

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poll: Who's Your Bond, James Bond

It's poll time again (keep it clean ya dirty grognards!)

While Ian Fleming's Bond novels (written between the early 1950's through the early 1960's) fit perfectly well within the gritty pulp genre the films take off in unexpected and sometimes absurd directions. Always with a dose of action, beautiful women (some much smarter than others) and intrigue, the Bond films are always anchored around the leading man played by more than eight actors spanning almost 50 years.

So today we come to one of the most controversial questions in pop history;
Who gave the best portrayal of Ian Fleming's iconic British secret agent James Bond, 007?

1. Barry Nelson
First appearance of James Bond US Television 1953 - clip

2. Sean Connery
Set the standard by which all other Bonds would be judged. -clip

3. George Lazenby
Ausie British Secret Agent

4. Roger Moore
Cigar smoking suave -Clip

5. Timothy Dalton
Was actually asked to play Bond in 1969 for OHMSS but HE felt he was too young. - Clip

6. Pierce ("I though Christmas came only once a year") Brosnan

8. Daniel Craig

10 David Niven
(blame YouTube/Google for the ad) Clip

11. Peter Sellers

12. Mike Meyers
(okay, so it's Austin Powers) - Clip

13. Secret Squirrel
Have fun it's Friday - Clip

As usual, you can vote Chicago style.