Friday, March 12, 2021

Returns & Resets

Well, it's been a while. Looking at the blog I see that I haven't posted since August. I haven't had any particular health problems, and no mental issues aside from the usual amount of pervading existential despair, but I have had a bunch of other stuff going on and a very odd family situation that's recently resolved itself (I hope).  So I'm ready to return to blogging, even though I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to blog about in regards to D&D.

I should probably start by mentioning that I've been running games again.  Over the last few months I found myself living with a couple of my players, so we decided to make Saturday nights the time to revive my 3rd edition campaign.  That campaign started way back circa 2002, and has been going on and off since then (mostly off since my son was born in 2008).  The initial portion was set in a lone fort in a savage wilderness, and culminated in the fort being besieged by an army of barbaric orcs.  That wrapped up pretty satisfyingly (I wrote it up here if you feel like reading about it), and I was fairly happy to end it at that. The main thrust of the campaign was done and the major plot threads had been dealt with, and my playing group were all getting married and having children, which was making things harder to schedule. I was just glad we'd gotten to go out on a climactic high note.

I have one player, though, who pretty vocally wanted to continue. The thing with this campaign is that it's a continuation of a 2nd edition campaign I ran in the late 90s. I set up a lot of threads in that game that never got resolved due to an unfortunate TPK. Most of threads involved the main four PCs being heroes of prophecy, which is a dumb idea when you're playing a game that can turn on a die roll.  What can I say, I'm wiser about that now.  So when I was designing my 3e campaign, I just said screw it, why throw away the work I've already done? The set-up was that a few centuries passed, and the forces of evil won because the heroes of prophecy failed. I didn't make that clear at the campaign's beginning, but the player I mentioned earlier figured out pretty quickly that this was the same world.

This player is still dead keen to find out the answers to plot threads I set up over two decades ago, and it didn't take me much convincing to start running again. My intention was to bring in a completely different style though. Whereas before I've been running discrete adventures set up with obvious plot hooks, this time I was planning on running more of a player-driven sandbox. And since the 3e adventures before that had been in a fort surrounded by hostile wilderness, I wanted the game to transition to more of a city-based game.

To set up the sandbox, I had to do some heavy rail-roading. It's a contradiction, but I wanted the campaign to move to a new area and I politely asked my players to go along with it. I would have preferred to do it a bit more organically, but the plan was that once I'd gotten done with that transition adventure I'd let the players drive things  completely.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way, due to events set up earlier in the campaign. As I've mentioned in earlier posts on the campaign, I went a little buck-wild with magic items, and among the things the PCs brought with them were the torso and left hand of the god of light, who had been dismembered by the god of darkness a few hundred years ago. Given that the PCs have entered a city ostensibly run by the priests of that god of darkness, with a resistance operating from the catacombs, things had to unfold in certain ways so they wouldn't end up thrown in a dungeon or killed on a sacrificial altar. I've given the players complete freedom to act within that framework and take charge as much as possible, but they've been led around by NPCs a lot more than I'd have liked. That scenario's been dealt with for now, with the god's body parts having been taken away to a safe place by the resistance, and I think things are finally ready to open up into a truly player-driven game.

What has worked really well is the transition to a city-based game. The fortress they'd previously lived in didn't provide a lot of opportunities, but the city of Port Bracken really opens things up: major cities give the players a lot more things to do and a lot more tactical options (as well as more ways to get themselves into trouble).  The game's shifted into one with a lot more factions and intrigue, and it's a positive change.  When the first session back culminated in the players ambushing a pirate captain outside of a brothel, I knew that the tone of the game had shifted considerably.

So I'm in new territory for the blog, which has mostly been me ruminating about a game that I've barely played since 2008.  I made a conscious decision a while ago to shift my D&D efforts to focus more on actively playing, which is part of why my Recaps & Roundups series stalled out back in August.  As such, I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to be doing here.  I'll definitely post about my current gaming activities, and any observations I have about running that campaign.  I'll try to make those posts general, but given that I'm running 3e it's going to a bit more new-school than the blog's focus has been so far.  As for what else I'll be doing, I don't know.  The Ultimate Sandbox has always been more of a pie-in-the-sky mental exercise, although I'd like to make it my standard game after I finish with the current campaign.  Recaps & Roundups will probably return, because I do enjoy that sort of historical/chronological analysis. For now though, I'm just going to ease myself back in, and post on whatever D&D-related stuff takes my fancy.

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