As some of you might remember, I finished up my "playtest" campaign of 7th edition Tunnels & Trolls last winter. Using some stringent Kindred selection rules, I had taken four, sometimes five, sometimes two, players' characters from 1st to 14th level from September 2005 up to March 2011. A lot of the duration of the campaign was because of Peryton and my convention play elsewhere, and still a lot of it was due to the difficulties of getting adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s to the tabletop for a role-playing session. But now the question is, "what's next?"
Well, I haven't been in too much of a hurry to restart to begin with. I am running T&T at a few conventions, always a good fantasy fix, and have a fairly stable storyline with T&T with recurring characters through BASHCon in Toledo. I am also busy writing T&T scenarios in the Elder Tunnels periodical and elsewhere. I also am working on my Spacers(TM) sci-fi affliction. But I do feel the need to get another "not for profit (pizza and beer moneys)" T&T campaign going. And I prefer the physical tabletop to the on-line conference call, I've discovered over the last couple of years.
So where do I start? What are my fixations, like what creatures and environments will proliferate the session? Am I going to have Lovecraftian horrors? Is the Nordic mythology angle something that I am dying to translate into role-playing terms? Heck is it going to beer and pretzels with puns about Gary Gygax and Britney Spears? I'm still sorting that out, but here's a couple of the inklings I have going on in mind.
I want to explore a bit beyond the 14th level, but not base the whole campaign there. I think I'll have the characters start at around 5th or 6th level. I feel that will have the players and I start from a point of expertise and competency and our first sit-downs won't be about the youthful hero, or heroine, discovering himself and the world around him. This is especially important as I think that the most of the players in the new campaign are going to be from the old campaign. But starting anew will have the players more open-minded about a change here and there that I will be making from last time. Aside from conventional changes, the players will still have to work within the outlined T&T rules before we start exploring the free-form of Beyond 14th Level T&T role-playing (I feel there should be an echo there). Also if I started out with the PCs from last campaign right at 14th level, certain players (especially one nicknamed Lumberjack) would forget to do anything but be a munchkin.
I intend on filling up the "spaces" that I discovered in the first campaign, namely the "Higher" level challenges. By this I mean various things. I intend of finding a comfortable way of finding creatures that can deal with say a Death Spell #9 or Hellbomb Burst, with detail enough to make them translatable to other GMs that might one day run the scenario that I craft. I also want to fill some of the space that over designers and solo authors have avoided over the past decades. D&D has its planes of hells and major demons and devils, I am hoping to show a rather unique T&T high level arena that players twenty years from now will allude to just as the forty year-olds refer to the "Cacodaemon," "Orcus" and the "66th plane of Limbo" do now and expect everyone to know what they are talking about.
So yeah, this campaign is going to be ambitious. But not anymore ambitious than getting together a group of friends to role-play while they live their lives for longer than a couple months. It might as well be worth it.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Thursday night/ Friday morning at work, I had an inkling that it was going to be a good weekend. As for paying attention to my job versus just being good conversation with my patients, it just wasn't going to happen. Luckily it was an easy enough night and I came home to find that Peryton had packed up everything and had it ready to loaded up, so I just spent the morning keeping myself awake and packing my own things. I made the conscious decision leave my PC at home and just work from pen and paper, and the quick notes that I had made at various times over the last couple of months. Instead I paid attention on having a different shirt to wear each day of the event. Then just before noon I packing up the car; and just a little after noon I was picking up the old woman and we were headed to the wilds of central western Ohio, in search of the source of the mighty Sandusky river.
Peryton was still making notes on her upcoming Dr. Who game as we drove down, so we let the car's GPS unit do most of the talking. And just a little after 2pm, we arrived at the Comfort Inn where this year's Troll Hoot would be taking place. The hotel was nestled in the town's By-the-Highway commercial area, where a second hotel was, a truck stop and all the fast food sites one could want within a mile of each other. And despite Gamercaster's continued threats to be showing up early, Pery and I were the first people to show up. Having no company for lunch, we explored the civilized area we English-speaking peoples had established a foothold in the wildernesses that is Upper Sandusky. We made it Burger King and picked up some beer, cider, snacks and paper-plates from a convenience store across the street from the hotel.
Everyone, Caed, Gamecaster, JerryTel and a newcomer Jeff, hence forth he will be Brock, announced via the Hoot's facebook page that they were there by 5:40. Amazingly the Dinner in the New Town tradition at the Hoots was observed by all the attendants and in a punctual manner. We all jumped into Caed's minivan of death and went in search of a local (non-franchised) restaurant, which Caed had the forethought to ask the evening manager behind the desk. By the way, this woman, and the other desk people would prove to be a skilled and friendly bunch of people throughout the weekend. We hit an "Italian" place, which struck me more as a western European cuisine menu in a gasthaus set up, there was "French" dressing and German bologna (not me the dish) as well great pasta dishes. Don't get wrong here, I am impressed not being ironic, it was nice to see blackened chicken and duck drumsticks without Tabasco sauce, with a great salad. I had the lasagna and a couple Black and Tans. We were having so much fun, the Toledo boys (Gamecaster and JerryTel) were getting to know Caed, and Brock getting back into gamer-dorkiness after an 18 year absence, that the waitress didn't want us to leave.
Gamecasters play-testing game of his rather furry science fiction game Quantum started around 7:30pm. The man showed his raw talent for the table-top arena in keeping up with a rowdy group of would-be gamers on track for his game. I probably wasn't the only person who was a little loopy with a bit of alcohol in me and a definite lack of sleep. I mean everyone had a quick joke or long story, and the Monty Python quotes flowed freely. To the man's credit he was able to keep the story going, work with impromptu rules discussions of his system AND keep up on the jokes as well. Afterward, he reminded us that this was first time ever GMing an adventure. And my Space-Goat character rocked, not to be overly immodest.
Saturday AM found me awake around 5am, which was later than I thought it would be. So I spent the daybreak hours exploring the smallish hotel and its grounds. I really liked the space. The lobby isn't much more than a door, a front desk and then the breakfast/dining area with a flat-screen TV in one corner continually playing Fox News. But the conference room is nestled into a hallway not adjoining other rooms but with access to the pool. The back hallway of the two story structure is nice and wide and removed from the hotel rooms through fire doors, which have nice sound dampening qualities. The hotel wrapped itself around a smoking patio/rock garden with benches. Thoughts of very small conventions with say 30 ppl expectancy started swirling around my head.
I ran the first event of the day, and though the 10am start time was too early for everyone, the four hour allotted time-slot proved to be a little too short. "A Journey Through a Strange Valley" was combining bits of earlier adventure "The Bubble Pits" and though I had a Tunnel-Hack matrix (extensive random terrain and encounter tables) worked out, I was exploring as much as the players were. We, both the players and myself, never get did get to any real meat, though I was definitely having fun with my trademark side-dishes gravity factored into "tunnel delving" and marking getting there a battle all of its own. JerryTel, having been eating gravity-salad for three years now, decided it was time for his dwarf Warrior, Jerry the Great nee Good, to take up "snow-shielding," a variation of snow boarding but without the visibility and a lot of physical damage.
Lunch was at McDonald's, and JerryTel and I had a bit of fun with a political discussion on the way back. I think we scared the hotel staff at the front desk, but him and I were actually finding out where we could give on our respective ideological positions, not throwing rhetoric at one another. It was a conversation not a debate or polemic exercise.
JerryTel began his "Feast or Famine" A Game of Thrones session just after 3pm. And once again I was drawn into his apt storytelling. The guy would be a great TV writer if he put his mind into it. And I don't mean TV as anything superficial, because it is my opinion that the writers for that medium understand what appeals to people in their art and culture but have a very limited time frame to express the bits and pieces that they have to offer. I am not familiar with aGoT, but I have seen at least three medieval-toned movies with Sean Bean to get the grit, and read enough Roger Zelanzy's Prince of Amber series so I think I did well enough. Who excelled was Brock, who's real name is Jeff mentioned earlier. But it during this session where Jeff found his character Brock Oath-Breaker, and he ruled the session. And from there on out, the man will ever be Brock of Brockville, home of Brockweisser, where they only grow wheat and barley, and import hops to have a beer worthy of Brock Day celebrations, roughly every Thursday. The man was in the role-playing zone.
Before Peryton's Dr. Who scenario, "Dreams of Cybermen" , we ordered the "Saturday Night Pizza Delivered!." These two 16" pizzas not only came from Anthony's Heavenly Pizza, the boxes were adorned with the proverb John 3:16. The pizza itself was rather tasty. Once again suggested by the evening manager at the front desk.
Though we gripe about the Friday sessions of Troll Hoots being the worsts, for the last two we've had great Friday night sessions, as everyone gets there earlier these days and we get caught up earlier as well. So Fridays are becoming one of the better slots to run a game. What hasn't changed throughout the four Hoots that we've had is the fact that the Saturday night slot is a grill session. Not saying Saturday night 7pm-Midnight is a bad slot, just a demanding slot. Peryton's "Dreams of Cyber Men" was an ambitious project, not only in her quest for doing homage to the Dr Who stories that she loves so much, but in her task before her as well.
At 6pm everyone was hyped from twelve hours of gaming in an 18 hour period. We had dinner and some of us had a cocktail just before the climax, if not the finale, to the Hoot. I heard from both JerryTel and Gamecaster separately that they were sold on Troll Hoots, and what a great game. Brock had found his niche and namesake. Caed was as hyped as Pery about playing Dr. Who. And then the game started at 7pm. Gamecaster had his character generated after breakfast of the day and had been reading Pery's rulebooks whenever he could. Brock and JerryTel used pre-generated characters, though changing the names, Brock's was "Brock," by the way. Caed and I being already familiar with Pery's Dr. Who games made our own characters. Us, generating our characters took a bit too much time. Full stomachs and being in the same room all day, and some alcohol started knocking ppl out.
The scenario itself was an awesome Dr. Who story. Peryton got its Torchwood characters from 2040 to my character Dallas Rugby, third, maybe 5th, string quarterback of the 1976-79 Denver Broncos in the year 1976 and from there we ended up on Sarkis, which my PC was amazed was not a Greek Island. And then we ran into representatives of the GCE mega-corporation where Pery's Corp-Speak of the future rather knocked our socks off-- she hinted at a whole galactic arm ran through Item Lists and waivers of responsibilities. Caed's Torchwood representative proved as ruthless as any granddaughter of Captain Jack Harkness would be. And Gamecaster's Mister Magoo homage took technobabble to higher levels than I have seen in six years of delving into space opera. Brock pulled radio watch. JerryTel's "dope-pusher from the future" biochemist added a criminal element to the tale giving the whole session a rather new angle on a rather traditional Cybermen yarn. I don't want to give away too much, but there was a multi-faced blob with tentacles... I am serious this plot was worthy of any Dr. Who fan's notice. Pery's Dr. Who fixation is paying off in creative role-playing in dozens.
A little after midnight, things wrapped up and everyone was indeed tired. JerryTel stated that drinking at 6pm was a bad thing. I countered with that we should've turned 6pm-7pm into a cocktail hour and gotten some air. Brock was ready for bed, and Gamecaster was packing like the cops would be showing up soon (he had to work the Sunday AM). There was a definite energy ebb there at the end of things.
At a long, leisurely breakfast on Sunday, Peryton joined JerryTel and I. Then Brock appeared and lastly Caed. We discovered that Brock is from the Lorain area, which is promising for the next, err one of the TrollHoots for 2012, Pery and I have a couple favorite spots in Lorain, Ohio. As it looks like right now the hoots and hollering of a few gamers as an excuse to be tourists and dorks at the same time is proving to be a resilient norm around this neck of the woods.
Pery and I took the long way home. We circled around Upper Sandusky and then headed in a round about way towards Norwalk. From there we headed to a favorite spot, a new reincarnation of a mexican restaurant once named el Gran Castillo, now called el Arriero, in Lorain and then proceeded back home towards Cleveland. We let the GPS guide us back to the expressway and ended up traveling through a stretch of road that brought me new eyes to older haunts in Sheffield Lake and Avon and a route to get to or from lake-side Lorain-based activities.
Once at home, Pery and I promptly crashed for seven hours after first trying to wade through a French I-Hate-Women "science fiction" flik from the 60s. And then found out Gamecaster left his toiletries with us, in rush to avoid the cops. All and all, I'd call this weekend a success in the scheme of life.