Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dungeons & Dragons

Although I didn't play very often, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) factored into my teenage years quite a bit. I loved reading the rulebooks and developing ideas for campaign settings (a campaign setting is the background where a series of game adventures - the campaign - take place). Eventually, I would apply those development techniques to writing projects. When Wizards of the Coast released their fourth edition, I decided to run a campaign that would be played by two different groups. One group is made up of a couple of guys who play occasionally at my house. The other is made up of people who sign up to play my campaign at the Pasadena D&D meetup held at Game Empire.

At the moment I'm taking a break from D&D to catch up on writing (and other stuff), but I'll probably be playing again sometime in March. The new games will be a little different, in response to gameplay from the previous sessions. Here are two changes that involve writing:

Standalone Adventures - My original campaign structure for the two groups was an epic made up of two interwoven plotlines. The plotlines were structured so they would lead up to a grand finale, a single game session where everyone played. It would take a year to play through to completion. When I tried this structure out, I discovered that players would often forget what happened during the previous session. In addition, new players who joined the game in Pasadena would have trouble getting up to speed with the continuity. Keeping a set of journal notes online (and on index cards) helped a little bit, but the extra work really wasn't worth my time. The solution I've decided on is to run adventures in the future that can be completed in one session. The adventures still take place in the same setting, and if players are interested, I'll have a bible of the setting online.

Mechanics First - When I wrote the original campaign, I started out with a "high concept", and fleshed the storyline out from there. This approach works for a movie, but it doesn't guarantee that the players will become immersed. In fact, the situations where the players enjoyed themselves the most were a result of game mechanics. An example of a mechanic would be a trap that the adventurers encountered while they were searching for something. The new adventures that I run will actually be built around mechanics, rather than a story concept.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Portland Part Two

Here's part two of the journal I kept when Ursula & I went to Portland for New Year's. Ursula was interested in moving to Portland a few years ago, but we didn't get around to checking it out until recently. You can find part one here. (You can also find the previous journal I kept of our trip to Paris here.).

12/31/08 - Wednesday, New Year's Eve.

From the Ace Hotel we trudged in the rain to Voodoo Donut; my Bavarian creme donut that made the dreariness fairly bearable. After that we went to Old Town Pizza and met with Hans, a developer that works with Seso. They talked shop while I looked for things to do. From there we went to the Nines to meet with Samantha & Kirsty. The Nines is light years away from the diners and dive bars I usually hang out in, but I quietly kept my reservations to myself and thought of pranks to pull on the hotel after they throw us out. Gordon showed up after a bit, and the two of us picked up the luggage while the rest of the crew went shopping for tights. I met Gordon during the four years of debauchery that I spent in New Bedford. We were waiters at the Olive Garden, and there was a lot of hard living going on. Since our lives have changed substantially (for the better), I was curious to see what would happen when we got together for New Year's.

Of course, New Year's Eve turned out to be a blur. We went to a restaurant called Bajingo's and another place (that I don't remember the name of) for the countdown, the crew singing to Simon and Garfunkel in the car on the way. To be honest, I was already wrecked before we left the house, and would have been content staying home with the dog. I made a mental note to myself not to get that whacked out again...at least not for the rest of the vacation.

1/1/09 - Thursday, New Year's Day

Woke up with a hangover that didn't fade until 8pm that night. We had lunch at McMenamin's by the Columbia River; the scene reminded me of Twin Peaks. Afterward we went to see Milk in Vancouver, WA, where Gordon lives. Milk's story is pretty inspiring. I think the thing that strikes me the most about it is that he really didn't start living his life and making a difference in the world until he was forty.

1/2/09 - Friday

I met up with Dennis Culver for lunch at Sante Fe. Dennis & I originally met through a message forum several years ago, but I've only seen him in person a couple of times. It was great catching up; I'm looking forward to his comic from Oni Press coming out in February. Later that afternoon Ursula & I went to Excalibur Comics and had dinner at the Bagdad Theater in the Hawthorne District.

In the evening we went to see a free show at Doug Fir. Pabst Blue Ribbon everywhere. The first band up was the the Slants at 9pm. They sounded like Dead or Alive meets Bloc Party. The crowd got really into them towards the end of their set when the synths came into play. Next up was Western Aerial, a power trio chock full of riffs. They reminded me of a 1971 Mach One Mustang, the kind of car you would see kids from voc race on the quarter-mile. The night closed with the the Family Gun, a glam outfit with a touch of Moony Suzuki. The room was packed for their set: tight jeans and expensive tattoos as far as the eye can see.

1/3/09 - Saturday

On Saturday we went to the Gorge to check out the waterfall. The ice made the visit a little precarious; Ursula was sliding around everywhere. We followed up the gorge with lunch at the lodge and then beer and pool at McMenamin's Edgefield. At home later that night, Gordon & I messed around with his collection of guitars & effects pedals, then we watched the 500 fingers of Dr. T., one of the strangest movies I've ever seen...imagine David Lynch directing H.R. Pufnstuf.

1/4/09 - Sunday

As Gordon dropped us off at the airport, "I really want to be in LA" by Eagles of Death Metal came on the radio. The irony never ends.