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July 25th, 2011
 Captain America and his signature shield

Captain America and his signature shield

I’m still in the middle of moving — new job and new home means very few blog updates, as I’m sure anyone who’s still following me has noticed — but I had a chance yesterday to catch the Captain America movie, and it demanded comment.

Captain America is a very interesting sort of superhero.  He doesn’t follow the general arcs other superheroes do.  By far the most common superhero character-development arc is Tragedy – Vengeance – Responsibility:  something bad happens to the character that drives him to become a superhero, and once he’s addressed the situation, he feels responsibility to continue to pursue justice.  This arc describes many Marvel heroes, including Spider-Man and Iron Man, as well as DC’s Batman, who is similar to Captain America in that he’s not a “true” superhuman but rather a human operating at the pinnacle of his abilities.

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The Year is 1806…

June 10th, 2011
The Battle of Austerlitz

The Battle of Austerlitz, by François Pascal Simon Gérard. In December 1805, France decisively defeated Austria and Russia.

Fantasy roleplaying games, as a rule, are set in fictional medieval or early-Renaissance Europe.  There’s certainly nothing limiting them to that setting, though; Dungeons & Dragons alone has featured settings derived from the ancient Middle East, China and Japan, and South and Central America.  The ancient world, the medieval, and the modern era have all been covered.

What hasn’t been considered so well is the span of time between the early Renaissance and the 20th century.  Aside from a few stabs at Victoriana (either gothic or steampunk-style) and a handful of Wild West-themed games, the pickings are fairly slim.

That’s a shame, because there are any number of potential settings in that span that would make for a gripping game.  For instance… consider the year 1806.

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Dealing with Disconnects: Cautious Combatants

May 30th, 2011

Sometimes when you’re running a game, you want to emulate a novel or movie.  Being unscripted, though, a game is a different sort of animal: the gamemaster may be the main storyteller, but he doesn’t have control over the protagonists.  This can lead to disconnects between the way heroes act in the “source” fiction and the way the PCs act in game.  One of the most common examples of this disconnect appears in combat.  In the novels and movies, the heroes charge bravely in, performing risky cinematic stunts.  They take chances.  They risk death in order to end a fight more quickly so they can get on to their ultimate goals.  They’re not necessarily foolish, but they aren’t cautious by any realistic standard.

In a campaign, PCs often act the opposite way in combat.  They proceed with great caution, looking for every possible piece of cover or other advantage.  They don’t use maneuvers that would cause them too many penalties.  They minimize risk in any way possible.

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More Treasures of Galadria

May 23rd, 2011

I’ve just returned from an extended trip to London, which provided plenty of inspiration for posts.  While I’m getting some of them in order, though, I figured I should post an update, since it’s been quite a while.  Here, then, are some more magic items from my long-running Galadria campaigns.  These span the various editions; I haven’t gone through the process of  updating all of them to 4e, or even to 3e, so I’ve stripped things like cost/gold value.

These particular items originate from the Mythic Asia portion of my campaign world.

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Spectacles for Your Maps

April 27th, 2011

In the spirit of this month’s blog carnival on maps, I thought I’d talk a little bit about map design.  Not the act of creating the actual map, although there’s plenty to be said about that; rather, the art of populating it.  Not with settlements, either.  With spectacles.

Spectacles are an element overlooked by many gamemasters, even experienced ones.  We’ll lay out mountain ranges and rivers, forests and plains, cities and villages, political boundaries and dungeon locations.  But what we sometimes forget to include are those sites that take advantage of the fantasy nature of the setting.  We might have something akin to Weathertop from The Lord of the Rings, but what about the fairy tales’ giant beanstalks rising to the clouds or mountains made of glass?  The mysteries of the world that inspire local legends and bardic songs?

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