Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Recap: My First Real Character
I cast Fog Cloud centered on the island
I was planning on doing a game of Storm King's Thunder this weekend, but once again, life got in the way. Not in a bad way, of course, but in a necessary kind of way. Good life lessons were learned.

However, another thing happened this week: I started playing my first 5th edition character! Well, not technically, since I've played characters in one-shots before, but this will be the first character I play over the course of a campaign. It's literally the first time I've gotten to level up a character and then play with the newly leveled-up character.

So, I'm going to talk about that a bit. This won't really be a recap, since I'm not really planning to write articles on this campaign. I think that's really the domain of the Dungeon Master, because they have great insight into what was or wasn't important in a game. If a player wrote it, they'd probably forget/misremember some important details.

Perhaps my DM will write some recaps. Perhaps not. Either way, we had a fun session and I'm going to ramble a bit on it.

Adventures on Jeonju

Cast of Characters
Megan: Dungeon Master
Jon: Sa Konu, wood elf monk, enjoys maps and herbalism, unsure about his place in the world

That's right, it's a solo campaign! I've never run one, so this is a new experience for both of us. I tend to really like player-to-player interactions in my own games, but from a player perspective, it was nice to just imagine the world and move at my own pace.

Also, I had to be very careful to just let things happen. Players who are also DMs can be the worst players, so I did my best to avoid telling Megan to do things one way or another. It was difficult, and I slipped up a bit, but overall I think I did well in-game. We did talk afterwards, and I gave her some advice. It's hard to say if it was overbearing, but she seemed receptive.

The game took place in my homebrewed world of Ahneria, on a distant continent entirely populated by Elves (homebrew stereotype number one). They were heavily influenced by Asian cultures (homebrew stereotype number two) and there had been a terrible disaster in recent memory that shaped the current culture on the island (homebrew stereotype number three, hat trick!).

Now, using stereotypical ideas isn't a bad thing. I could write an entire article on originality and how it doesn't really exist, but many have already done so. The key is that, through development, cliches are expanded into cool, unique ideas. The idea of lengthy seasons isn't original to Game of Thrones, but through story development, it became a powerful force in his world.

Megan has been working on building this area of the world for a while now, and some of the cliches are already showing signs of emerging novelty. There are quite a few races interacting, the culture has expanded from simply being Asian-influenced, and the disaster is starting to formulate into an interesting world-building piece.

I guess I should go into the disaster part, as I understand it. Basically, the culture has forgotten a lot of its history, not due to time, but due to this Gray Fog that has blanketed the land. It's still very mysterious, but Elves who go into the fog can't remember what they did within, or emerge scarred, mad, or worse.

It's a very interesting thing to happen to Elves in particular, with their long racial memory. What will the culture be like now that people have forgotten the ways that the previous generations did things? Will they revert back to the time they do remember? Is there anyone even alive from before the Fog?

Basically, we started out with a nice mystery and a very cool sense of wonder about the world. I think my games sometimes lack that, since I like to tell the players everything they need to know. I do my fair share of foreshadowing, but there is usually a reasonable explanation behind things.
Beachside property is quite expensive in fantasy real estate
So the game began at a monastery outside the Fog, which was built to help those who wandered out of the Fog. Through meditation, physical training, and interaction with nature, the monks (including Konu) would help the wanderers regain control of their mind and body.

It's interesting to point out that I'm not sure if Konu was one of those wanderers, or if he was born outside the Fog. There is a city and a few villages outside the Fog that he could have come from. Emergent background details - an exciting part of being a PC!

The monastery had five elder Elves, each with their own quirks. My favorite was Master Kim, a relatively young elder (still in the 500s) who had joined the monastery after wandering out of the fog. She had a very sympathetic worldview, and believed that each person would find their destiny by following their feelings. The conversation I had with her eventually convinced Konu that he was right in leaving his monk life and following the path on a mysterious map he found.

Once he left the monastery, we switched over to a modified version of the travel rules I enjoy so much. It was a simpler system (and I think my d12 was a bit finicky), but I ended up with two encounters that were pretty interesting.

First, Konu met a dryad named Willow, who was quite friendly. After they figured out how to communicate (Konu didn't know Sylvan and Willow spoke broken Elvish), they became traveling companions. A common issue for new DMs is not giving enough life to the NPCs, but Megan did a good job of making Willow have her own personality and goals.

The other encounter was formative for Konu: a black bear entered his camp during a night on his travels. After attempting to distract the bear with food, Konu hid in a tree rather than fight the creature. It ended up costing him half his rations, but Konu is definitely not about taking a life if he can help it.

The map lead to a long-abandoned temple, which Willow didn't want to enter. Konu decided to go in alone, and found a stone child on the altar. When he touched it, it came to life and cried, and when he had calmed it, it turned into a small heart made of gold.
Sa Konu: mildly uncertain and confused about a lot of things
It took us a while to get through this sequence, and I was reminded that it's very difficult to make sure the players understand what you are trying to convey. D&D is often set in a fantastical setting, so it's sometimes hard to convey if something is part of the magical world or the mundane.

The classic example is a skeleton: creepy set dressing or ambushing enemy? Making sure your players know what you're conveying is vital to making your game run smoothly. Of course, if you want a fantasy setting where people go around bashing corpses just in case, then good for you. But building trust between the DM and the players usually leads to better games.

Anyway, we stopped at the strange baby transformation. Also, there was some weird writing that I could read even though I didn't know how I knew the language, which makes me think that Konu might have been a wanderer in the Fog... it's fun to theorize about these sort of things.

As I said before, I'm not planning on keeping up on these recaps. But since I didn't end up running a game this weekend, I figured it'd be fun to talk about.

Next week, I should have a recap for our next session of Maze of the Blue Medusa! The hiatus is over!

Thanks for reading!

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