Another MEPACon has come and gone, taking with it two weeks of frantic game preparation and 12 hours of actual play. The convention was held in Clarks Summit, near Scranton Pa. on November 12-14 and looked to have the typical attendance of 100 gamers playing a mix of board games, organized play, and one-shot RPGs. I ran three events, all of which had 5 to 7 players.
The sun-blasted, magic-scarred campaign setting of Dark Sun is unlike any other published for Dungeons & Dragons. It inverts or eliminates many of the core concepts of D&D: arcane power is rare, psionic abilities are rampant; Halflings are cannibals, dwarves are slaves, and elves are opportunistic, lying traders.
The world itself – known as Athas -- is danger incarnate, with civilization reduced to a handful of city states separated by vast, dangerous stretches of desert populated by mutated monsters. The shear alienness Dark Sun demanded a monster manual, and Wizards of the Coast delivered.
The Dark Sun Creature Catalog is 143 pages of monsters, threats, and non-player characters that game masters can use to fill the setting's ruined expanses and rare oases, as well as new rules for converting existing monsters to the setting. The book largely succeeds in its mission, providing game masters with the unexpected horrors that are its trademark and failing only to provide the run-of-the-mill city encounters that would make urban adventuring easier to run.
The Dark Sun has risen again on the parched, magic devastated world of Athas, bringing with it the new rules and mindset of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. First introduced in the early 1990s during D&D 2nd Edition, Dark Sun was meant to be a brutal, unforgiving dark fantasy setting unlike anything the game had seen.
Noble hobbits, wise wizards, and forthright knights gave way to a world devastated by an arcane apocalypse. Where once there had been a bright, green planet, there was now just sand and death. Civilization lived on in a handful of city-states dominated by all-powerful sorcerer-kings. Players took on the role of slaves, gladiators and other peons thrown to the bottom of society’s latter; the setting wasn’t about saving the world – it was about surviving it. It was also the first setting where psionics dominated the landscape, while magic was rare (and profane, as it caused the apocalypse that turned verdant Athas into a wasteland).
To demonstrate just how lethal the setting was the original rules encouraged players to roll up multiple characters since it was assumed that one or more would die during the first few adventures. Clearly we weren’t in Waterdeep any more...
My events for MEPACon Fall 2010 are up and ready for registration on Warhorn. The convention is being held Friday, 11/12 through Sunday, 11/14 at the Ramada Clarks Summit in Clarks Summit, PA. I'll be running three events -- "Catch and Release" (Star Wars: Saga Edition), "The Champions of New York" (The Day After Ragnarok), and "The Rise of the Ur-Flan".
I'm looking at doing a Knights of the Dinner Table column on blogs, wikis and other sites dedicated to science fiction role-playing games. Of course this is a bit self serving, as I'm currently running two science fiction games (Star Wars: Saga Edition and The Day After Ragnarok) but it's a niche that could use some attention. The sites don't need to be exclusively science fiction, but some significant portion of their content should deal with the genre.
Keep in mind that I've done columns on Rogue Trader, Star Wars: Saga Edition, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers in the last year so I'm less likely to write about sites that deal with those games.
Here's what I have so far.
As a thirty-something game master, I find myself torn. As a storyteller I love hand-crafting plots and storylines for my weekly role-playing game sessions. But as a husband and dad with a full-time job, extracurricular activities, and household chores to deal with, finding the time to tell those stories is challenge.
My Three-Page Manifesto helps keep my prep times reasonable, but I can still find myself scrambling for ideas the night before the game. That's why I've found the mini adventures in Star Wars: Scum and Villainy and the random adventure creation tables in The Day After Ragnarok so useful, and why I was happy to see Gnome Stew's Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters arrive in my inbox.
Scum and Villainy is an essential source book for those running a Star Wars: Saga Edition game on the fringes of galactic society, whether that’s trolling for would-be passengers in a Mos Eisley cantina, smuggling spice out of Kessel, or engaging in piracy against the Galactic Empire.
The book does for crime what the earlier Starships of the Galaxy did for starships and space combat, providing scoundrels, bounty hunters and outright criminals with a host of new game rules and options for running a campaign that interacts with the galaxy’s dark underbelly.
When some co-workers and I decided to try our hand at a lunch-time role-playing campaign, I knew that game prep was going to be critical to making it work. But not the sort of game prep I normally did; this was all about the physical game prep.
We're playing The Day After Ragnarok using the Savage Worlds rules, and thanks to Ken Hite's numerous adventure generation tables, the scenarios practically write themselves. No, the part the essential part of making this campaign work was making sure I knew where my towel was.
Dice. Initiative cards. A battle map. Miniatures. I have all of this stuff in my game room ... but we're not playing there. We're in an under-ventilated, odd-smelling basement conference room whose only virtues are privacy, a table, and a dry erase board.
My lunchtime role-playing game campaign is now a reality. Inspired by Mike Mearls' tales of lunchtime D&D 4E campaigns, and after my coworkers jumped at an offhand tweet about a lunchtime game, I'm now running a twice-a-week The Day After Ragnarok game.