Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A flood of ideas

My Heroes By Trade campaign came to a crashing halt last night.  To no one's great surprise it happened because there was finally a showdown between my character, Po, a paladin type with a penchant for smashing objects (or smashing people) when things went sideways, and Gnarr, a gnome who never ran into a bad idea he didn't test out.

Gnarr had 'accidentally' smashed much of a city.  He 'accidentally' invited a powerful and dangerous creature from below the earth to come and visit the surface, and the city was significantly damaged and had to be evacuated.  This was a disaster because we desperately needed the city's housing and infrastructure to cope with a large number of orks that needed a place to live, and they were going to take it by force if negotiations failed.

Then Gnarr decided to try to coax even more of the powerful and dangerous creatures from below to the surface and they listened, causing a volcanic eruption and annihilating the remains of the city.  The first time it was reckless and foolish, but Gnarr didn't know that his actions would be nearly as destructive as they were.  The second time was, in Po's humble opinion, pure evil.  He destroyed a city just to watch it burn.

Following this Po decided to tell Gnarr that he was out of the group and demanded he hand over his powerful magic items so he could do no more damage with them.  Gnarr refused, and tried to flee.  Our merry band was on Po's side, so the merry band prevented Gnarr running away.  Gnarr, backed into a tough spot, decided to use one of our powerful magical items to immediately kill the merry band.  This also destroyed Gnarr's spirit, but since he already had a demon riding around inside his head this didn't stop his body.  (The demon rider was a previous extremely bad idea of Gnarr's.)  Po and Gnarr's body (piloted now by a demon) fought to the death and Po was victorious, finally going through on her endless litany of threats against Gnarr for his recklessness.  Po wouldn't have killed Gnarr otherwise, but because he murdered the merry band she murdered Gnarr in turn.

Po, filled with grief, gathered all the items of power and embarked on a magical quest that was certain to kill her.

And so it ended.

Sort of.

I mean, I am curious as to what will happen with the world now that the heroes who were trying to save it murdered each other.  Probably it is catastrophic.

But Gnarr is dead, and although he is likely less destructive than the demons the party was aiming to kill, that isn't certain.  The world might be better off with the demons than the gnome.

Now I have to get the next version of the game ready.  I have been sitting on it for a year now, occasionally tinkering, but mostly just waiting for an opportunity.  I don't know if every writer is this way, but as soon as I have a deadline like this I am suddenly flush with ideas. I need to fix everything, change everything, make everything better!  I could have been doing this stuff a week ago, or a month ago, but now I actually have to put the next version in people's hands, and that gets my creativity juiced up like nothing else.

I really work to deadlines and my hobbies are no different than my actual work in this way.  I just have to convince people to give me another 24 hours to push all of my stuff into the document in a big pile now that things are coming fast and furious.

Time to begin testing out all the mechanics I have been carefully massaging for so long and see if they are as beautiful out in the wild as they were in my head.  Also to test some half baked notions I just now came up with in a flurry of last minute pressure.

So excited!


  1. My understanding is that the city was being abandoned already, so it was a destroyed city that was going to be further destroyed.

    I think your definition of "bad idea" needs work. I could easily frame all those decisions in ways that make them look like really good ideas. I suspect it has to do with risk tolerance - sometimes you have to take risks to accomplish great things.

    Okay, the second set of eruptions is hard to defend. That was a moment of character weakness for the opportunity to live a lifelong dream. Plus, *someone* was getting all up in his face that Gnarr was making stuff up and couldn't do what he said he could do.

    I think the lesson here is: "You reap what you sow". Also known as, "don't keep taunting and bullying the Earth Arch-Magi".

    And don't get me started on calling yourself a "paladin". The random civilians you murdered for doing their job as innocent guards may disagree with that assessment. Had Po any true integrity, she would have turned herself in. Gnarr had great forbearance to resist taking her down then, instead leading her away from civilized lands where her Hulk-like personality could do more good than evil. Tragically, that back-fired when her murderous spree continued and Gnarr was slain. The world mourns for the lack of justice.

  2. Paladin more as a defensive type caster who wears heavy armour and isn't good at stealth. Her attitudes are somewhat more chaotic than lawful, it is true.

    Are you truly suggesting that acts of massive carnage and mayhem should be excused by "Someone said I couldn't do it, so I did it"?

  3. The second set of volcanoes was rash, I already confessed to that.

    There's also an out of game element to it. Why play a character who does the right thing and avoid trouble? I do that in real life. We're in a fantasy world going on adventures, so let's embrace that instead of avoid it.

    If a demon offers you deal, turning it down ends the narrative. Accept, and see what kind of excitement is going to happen!

    If a world has dragons and you just hide from them, the story ends. Seek them out and create epic tales.

    If you get offered the power of a volcano, with the possibility of controlling it and having astounding things happen (such as wiping out a demon-controlled army of orcs) and you push it away, you may never learn the interesting story behind it. Take the risk and explore what the GM has come up with specifically for your character.

    If you're travelling with a violent psychotic who murders anyone who violates her whacked sense of justice and has threatened repeatedly to kill you and possibly one of your other companions...you should probably assassinate her while she sleeps and is unarmored. But then the campaign is over, and that should be a group decision, not an individual one...

  4. I find that turning down offers also leads to interesting situations. Me turning down the deal with the demon was pretty cool, I thought! Plus there is a difference between running from everything and running from some things. If you just walk up to everything the game is boring - your response is always the same and either the world is toothless or you die right quick. I prefer a dangerous world where you actually have to make decisions, and foolish ones kill you.

    You also seem to think that Matt in the Hat actually plans arcs for all the crazy stuff that happens. He doesn't! It isn't a plan! Much of the time you are pursuing a red herring into random territory. The world is without plan, without destiny. All of which means you really can say no sometimes and you won't have missed anything, because some other thing will come up.

    Lastly... are you really so hung up on Po killing guards who were part of a massive magical slavery operation? I thought Gnarr hated slavery? But when Po killed people (who were demanding unconditional surrender and probably going to see her murdered or imprisoned for years) who were supporting that slavery, you object? Juh?

  5. Didn't turning down the deal with the big demon mean that nothing changed? I'm honestly confused. I think it was a good idea, but it felt like the story went nowhere from there - if the troll doesn't do anything, what happens? We leave the city without disturbing anything and continue on our way?

    I agree that not every offer needs to be accepted. I didn't look in the cloak (that Po eventually did) because I didn't feel I needed to - I had enough going on already. Matt puts out opportunities (or I look for them) and neither of us know what I will do with them. That's the excitement. It's not predictable as sometimes I don't bite.

    It was easy for Matt to provide hooks for me because I made my desires clear, and I felt he did a great job. It became a player-driven campaign vs. a GM-driven campaign, something I was just recently reading up on.

    Are there any non-standard ("bad") offers or opportunities that Po accepted? Any proactive things she initiated? If we're talking about "every response being the same", I think Po was pretty predictable and easy to manipulate both as a GM and a fellow player.

    The risk of dying came from undead dragons, volcanoes, super shard interference, etc. I don't feel that the world was toothless, I felt like we just made reasonable decisions in those situations. And it was great that sometimes very dangerous things (dragon, kraken) were defeated by the Merry Band's bag of tricks and Gnarr was completely blind to it!

    (and it they were all toothless, and I didn't realize it, then kudos to Matt!)

    Sure I can say "no" this time and not that time, but if it's all red herrings, what does it matter which one I follow up on? Why not follow up on the ones that interest me? If I spend a year talking about volcanoes, I'm pretty sure I'm going to say "yes" when the offer comes up!

    Killing the innocent guards was wrong. We had other options (sneak, subdue, flee, etc.), but Po always chooses the same path. As far as they could tell, we were breaking the law, and they were enforcing it. If I'm hunting Al Capone and the police try to stop me from busting down his door and shooting him, is it reasonable for me to shoot them dead? That's not what heroes do. Terminator 2 is a lot different if Arnold just mows down all the cops getting in their way at Cyberdyne!

  6. When the guards entered the picture we could not sneak or flee. Remember, I was wearing heavy armour and you are slow. Fleeing, not possible. Sneaking? After we have already been found? It was surrender or fight, and surrendering to the guards of a person who has demonstrated their willingness to enslave people isn't exactly a safe idea.

    Po had a lot of character driven stuff going on, and said yes to many things. It was just that when her stuff started happening, you would do something completely unexpected that derailed everything completely. Volcano, dragon, attacking slavers (including their innocent guards, that you care so much about?), etc. Our stories got buried under the overarching story of "What will Gnarr do next?"

    1. Guarding slavers is like being a mob guard, or drug lord guard. It's clear that you're working for bad guys, thus you are a bad guy.

      Random noble guard for a noble who is using mind control no one knows about? Innocent.

      People who surrender when they're surrounded by the police, hoping that an opportunity escape later might present itself? Heroes.

  7. I am so glad and saddened to read of the end of this campaign! Myself and my binary star companion look down on you and wish you well. We welcome to goodness in Gnarr's soul to heaven.