Players: Helma and Tommi
DM: Sean (me)
After some play of older versions of D&D, specifically a AD&D2e inspired OS/R game (For Gold & Glory), there was some interest and talk about a) play more D&D and b) doing so for longer. I chose 3.5 because it gets lost in Pathfinder talk, which is fair, but I think that the two systems are not identical. Much like my feelings about 4e, my feelings about PF and DD3.5 have evolved over the years largely due to how both games were marketed. The constant introduction of new rules pushes against relationship between the player and GM and I think, makes it toxic. The GM becomes a service top or Daddy/ Mommy, creating content so players can unveil their new creation and play it. This is not play or looking back on it, it is rarely what we might consider coherent play. It becomes a fashion show.
So going to raw, just the Player’s Handbook 3.5 was my goal. I like the system but it does have a lot of gears that turn and that pushes players and DM’s towards optimizing character. I feel that Helma and Tommi asked great questions about their characters and seemed to find a good spot between what they wanted and what they got. I will let them speak to that if they wish. I do like their characters and I am enjoying both players inhabiting their space.
How to make this interesting? I spent many years (like 7 years) playing Living Greyhawk, using D&D 3.0 and 3.5 with the RPGA. I also ran home games to be sure but, for 7 years the RPGA sessions were our home game. There were tons of modules and adventures written, most of which cannot be gathered. I do know of some caches existing, but they are secret and likely on the DARK WEB. As I had just run a classic module, I decided to make my own prep in my wide-ranging world of the Middle Kingdoms. I took the idea of cauldrons from Welsh myth and laid the foundation of the game with the Cup of Nalak. Is it a chalice? Is it an actual cauldron? Nobody knows. Heck it might be nothing but a rumor. This was to give a mythical overtone to the setting and situation. I am not sure if it is working or not, but we are only two sessions into play.
I created a place to start and a region to play in and started the ball rolling and there are bards involved. I had this largely planned before the bard discussion on Adept Play happened and was reminded that I needed to give the bards a better look than what we might see of late. I am happy to say, so far, so good.
Play began on a foggy mourning in Ryeton, a village once known as Rye Town because of the crop they grew. The morning is silent, and the people are not in sight, save for a dwarven innkeeper. The innkeeper reveals that there is someone else in the inn and all investigate to find… a dead halfling. Because all good stories begin with murder, right? From there the players took some interest and were not shy about offering their services for gold, which I love. No one should pursue the bad guy for vague notions: its like when writers and musicians are offered gigs for “exposure”. No, give the characters gold, put their survival on the line, or throw some cosmic bullshit at them. And my NPCs understand this. I am still looking to make the content more personal and more engaging for both players, but having a bit of struggle there.
The end of session 1 had the characters fighting giant boars. Which they did, killing one while an NPC druid killed the other.
Session 2 was conversation and negotiation and time with some bards in an open air. I enjoyed it, but I keep wondering if I should have thrown more conflict in? I am doing my best not to lay tracks in front of the players, but I often worry that I bore players with my style. Constraints feel harder outside of the dungeon and 3.5 is still a D&D game: it likes dungeons where the players can show off their stuff. It ended with the characters planning to accompany a half-orc bard north to the large town of Wynder’s Gap in search of another bard who may or may not know something about the Cup or Cauldron of Ryeton. (Every human village or city has a largely ceremonial cauldron at its center. Other races have similar though not the same kind of thing.)
My struggle right now is that I hope this is interesting. No one has said that is not interesting, but it did come up if the incidents that the players ran into were the content and should they follow those? My answer always is “no, you can do anything” but that undermines social contract I think. Saying “yes” this is the interesting thing in the room, does not remove agency. And I might be fighting the system too much.