Thursday, May 20, 2021


I provide occasional updates for my long-running D&D game on the blog, so here's this one:

Crux of Eternity turns ten-years-old today. (The blog itself doesn't turn ten until August 9.)

What started because one of Nicole's co-workers asked if she played Dungeons & Dragons (neither of us did at the time, but we were very aware of it) has since sprawled into something both wonderful and strange. The request hit at the perfect time: I had just picked up the fourth edition books and I had just discovered the OSR blogging scene. The game has since spiraled out into at least eight other games (across at least five separate rule systems!) with the eternal possibility of more in the future.

The game started with just a handful of prompts, including:
I think the experiment has been successful, although only the players can say for certain. We switched to fifth edition partway through the campaign, which helped streamline some things while making other things more complicated. (Most notably, 4e games are very linear, but 5e is a little more forgiving of sandboxes, so we've had more improvised and sandbox-y game stuff since the switch. Honestly, it's my preferred mode.)

Back on May 1, the players finally faced the ultimate evil of the campaign after almost a decade of play: the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord, the aforementioned beholder ultimate tyrant and mastermind of many of the miseries that have infected this particular campaign. (Ironically, due to COVID and social distancing, I never got to use the actual ultimate tyrant miniature; we ran the battle using digital tokens over Roll20. So it goes.)

(The campaign isn't quite over yet, though; I introduced content from Coliseum Morpheuon several sessions ago, and the PCs decided that they hate the Khan of Nightmares and want to kill him as a coda.)

As always, if you're into Actual Play and session writeups, you can read the whole shebang at Obsidian Portal.

While I expect I'll be dealing with this setting and the fallout from its many campaigns for years to come, I'm sure I'll move onto some other long-form obsessive campaign for the 2020s. If the 2000s were dominated by World of Darkness and the 2010s were dominated by D&D and OSR stuff, what do the 2020s hold? (Potential predictions: my long-running Unknown Armies game, Tip the World Over on Its Side, turned five-years-old on May 2, so the idea of running a sprawling, inter-connected series of Unknown Armies games is very much on the table. Additionally, I'm leaning towards using Forged in the Dark stuff for the official follow-up to Crux of Eternity.)

If you want to see what happens next, watch this space...

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Lost Prototypes

After many years of waiting, I finally had a chance to play Grim Fandango and subsequently played Broken Age. These, in turn, reminded me of playing adventure games when I was much younger, which subsequently reminded me of something I hadn't thought about in years.

Starting in third grade, we used to play pretend at recess. That's not especially noteworthy on its own — lots of kids did that — but I made elaborate scenarios with continuity from one recess session to the next, and the plots ran for years. Individual sessions usually included puzzles to solve, enemies to battle, and friendly characters with whom to interact. (If I had known about randomizers like dice or any of the abstract LARP-style combat forms, this no doubt would have become even more elaborate.) By sixth grade, the damn things even had character sheets. (Just equipment lists, but still.) I think I even developed paper props once or twice.

It was only years later that I realized these were some manner of proto-LARP.

(Most of the characters were ripped from popular culture, but at some point, I should probably bring The King of All Trees into a game. Why I had some Green Man-style nature deity in my elementary school pretend games is probably a conversation for another time, although it probably has the same psychological root as my deep and abiding love of folk horror.)

The weird recess proto-LARP stuff I remember, and Nicole and I occasionally discuss it. (Lamentably, she always figured we were never interested in having additional players, and so never participated.) That's old news. The more recent memory from playing adventure games is this:

No doubt spurred both by this and by a diet of computer adventure games, at some point in sixth grade, I started writing analogue adventure games that we would run through at lunch. If you've played any of the command prompt or point-and-click adventure games popular in the eighties and nineties, you'll recognize the format: a map with a series of rooms, each of which usually features an NPC that requires some object or interaction (often from a previous room) to progress. These were all hand-drawn maps and characters, and while very linear (in the style of adventure games at the time), are recognizable as weird puzzle dungeons. I only remember one or two puzzles from them, but I now idly wonder if I could track any of those down...

(If I do happen to find any of them, and they're still legible, I'll no doubt have to scan them and upload them for general perusal. I wonder if I'll recall any of the puzzles from the time...)

I know at some point in seventh or eighth grade, I started developing a scenario with percentages, but never sorted out the math and always assumed it would have to be some manner of video game. Again, had I known about d100s or random number generators, I would have been running and designing RPGs years before I "officially" started.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I suppose no one (least of all me) should be surprised that I started running role-playing games or messing with game design. The obsession started early, before I had the language or tools for it.

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