IL’HURLOTH THE ILLITHID METH COOK SAYS, “THAT BREAKING BAD SHOW IS SUCH BULLSHIT. BUST MY ASS COOKING THIS HORRIBLE SHIT, AND WHERE’RE MY FAT STACKS OF CASH? WHERE’S MY FINANCIAL SECURITY? GODDAMN DROW ELVES CUTTING INTO MY PROFITS WITH THEIR SLAVE LABOR AND CHEAP GREEN SLIME SYRUP. I OUGHT TO JUST GIVE UP AND GO BACK TO GRAD SCHOOL.”
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DRAGON SAYS, “SMALL TRUNK, CHECK. BIGGER TRUNK, CHECK. LARGE TRUNK. WAND. PEGASUS STATUETTE. BATTLE AXE, YEP, THERE IT IS. MAGICAL GLOWING HARP THAT OCCASIONAL BUSTS OUT INTO SONG…RIGHT THERE. GOLD, GOLD, GOLD AND MORE AND MORE GOLD. KEYS…YES, BUT…GODDAMMIT, WHAT THE HELL DO THESE KEYS EVEN OPEN? WHY HAVE KEYS IF YOU CAN’T OPEN SOMETHING WITH THEM? I KNOW I NEED THE KEYS, BUT WITHOUT LOCKS, THEY’RE JUST RANDOM EXTRA TREASURE. MAYBE THE NEXT GROUP OF IDIOTS WHO COME SNOOPING AROUND WILL HAVE LOCKS FOR THE KEYS TO OPEN. O GOD I HOPE THEY HAVE LOCKS.”
GHOST OF A PLAYER CHARACTER WHO DIED WITHOUT GETTING THE CHANCE TO TIDY UP HIS MORTAL AFFAIRS SAYS, “WAKE UP, TRAVIS GRAYTHORN, OR WHATEVER THE HELL YOUR NAME IS. NONCORPOREAL MAN TALKING HERE. THAT’S IT, UP HERE. GOOD. I LOANED YOU A HUNDRED GOLD PIECES, REMEMBER? IT WAS WHEN YOU SHOWED UP IN THAT TAVERN AND MUMBLED SOMETHING ABOUT JOINING OUR PARTY. ‘SURE! I’LL LEND YOU SOME COIN,’ I SAID. ‘GO BUY SOME GEAR,’ I SAID. AND WHAT HAPPENS? THAT VERY NIGHT A STRAY ARROW—ONE OF YOUR STRAY ARROWS—CATCHES ME IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD. LOOK, JUST BECAUSE I’M DEAD DOESN’T MEAN YOU DON’T STILL OWE ME A HUNDRED GOLD PIECES. I’LL BE BACK. EVERY TIME YOU’RE WITH A WOMAN, I’LL BE THERE. EVERY TIME YOU’RE ALL BEAT UP AND TRYING TO REST, YOU’LL SEE ME. EVERY TIME YOU’RE DRUNK, EVERY TIME I CAN POSSIBLY HARASS YOU, I’LL BE FLOATIN HERE, UNTIL YOU REPAY YOUR DEBT. I’M TOTALLY SERIOUS, DUDE. I DON’T FORGET WHEN SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY.”
SARCASTIC OFFSTAGE VOICE SAYS, “HEY, BLIBDOOLPOOLP, DARIUSWHITEPLUME SEZ YER SEXY!”
BLIBDOOLPOOLP SAYS, “BLOP BLORP HURLAARBLAHHBLA BLAP BLAP SSSHHUUTHBLECK YARPBLOGAA BLAH.”
GIGANTIC INTELLIGENT CRAWDAD SAYS, “GET THE POT READY, MA, I GOT ME A LIVE ONE!”
WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. ROLLED RANDOM ENCOUNTERS AGAINST OUR PARANOIA. CAMPED OUT UNDER THE NONSENSE STARS. ROASTED WEENIES ON A SHIELD CHERRY-RED AND RIPPLING FROM A HEAT METAL SPELL.
AMON AMARTH. “WHERE IS YOUR GOD?” FROM TWILIGHT OF THE THUNDER GOD.
FORTIFY THIS, ASSHOLE
I’ve been writing an analysis of fortifications, as they relate to player characters in fantasy settings like D&D. In that context, the more I’ve thought about fortifications, the more complex the subject becomes. Every little decision is contigent upon some aspect of circumstance. For example, an isolated (human) village that needs to defend itself from horsebacked brigands but lacks the time and resources to erect sound defenses faces a unique set of challenges. So does a city of 12,000 at war with its much stronger rival city-state, which has fielded not only foot troops and cavalry, but also (through payment, trickery, or coercion) a half-dozen stone giants, effectively living siege engines.
What else do you have to consider when fortifying? Your water supply. The integrity of the ground beneath your (walls) feet. How much you can spend on defensive works. What building materials you have access to. What nearby natural resources make your territory valuable, and thus a desireable conquest. Which powerful friends have your back. Which powerful friends might just have plans to betray you. What sorts of creatures live nearby, and are they dangerous. How much food can you store, for how long, and where. Can you trust the people with whom you share your fortified space. Who can levy magical power against you, and of what variety. What magic, if any, can you wield in self-defense. How do the local terrain and climate affect construction, travel, and food production. Who has reason to attack you, and who does not. Where are the vulnerabilities in your defenses, and where are the strengths. How long the whole mess will take to build and who exactly is going to build it.
Every time I’m about to wrap my head around one problem, three more pop up. The trouble lies with narrowing down the most relevant aspects of fortification; relevant, that is, to player characters, both for their use and when used to thwart them.
DISCOVERED IN A USED BOOK I PURCHASED 3-1-14. THE BOOK IS ERIK LARSON’S THUNDERSTRUCK.
DON’T BE A VIGINA!
A MAP I DREW LAST YEAR, (OVER)DETAILING A PARTIALLY RUINED SALT MINING CAMP THE PCs VISITED AND SUBSEQUENTLY HATED.
HOW THIS DM DMs #7: TRACKING COMPLEX PC-NPC RELATIONSHIPS.
THE TWO CIRCLES IN THE CENTER ARE PCs (MY WIFE’S, AND THAT OF OUR FRIEND WHO MOVED AWAY BUT WHOSE CHARACTER REMAINS ACTIVE IN MY WORLD). THE OTHER CIRCLES ARE INDIVIDUAL NPCs, ORGANIZATIONS, RELIGIOUS GROUPS, ONE EX-PC, GUILDS, A DRAGON, AN ASSASSIN, A NIGHT HAG. THE VARIOUS-COLORED LINES REPRESENT RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE PC AND THE NPC/NPC GROUP IN QUESTION.
CREATING THIS DIAGRAM DID NOT MUCH HELP ME UNDERSTAND ANY OF THESE RELATIONSHIPS ANY MORE OR LESS THAN I ALREADY DO. BUT IT DID HELP ME VISUALIZE THEM IN A CONCRETE MANNER, WHICH IN TURN HELPED ME PICK OUT WHICH RELATIONSHIPS HAD GREATER IMPORTANCE FOR THE GAME.
THE LESSON IS THIS: AT HIGH LEVELS, PCs HAVE CULTIVATED ANY NUMBER OF FRIENDS AND ENEMIES, WHO MAY RETURN AT ANY TIME, IN ADDITION TO NEW FRIENDS AND ENEMIES WITH WHOM THE PCs ARE DEALING WITH NOW. PLUS THE GROUPS OF NPCs DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS WITH ONE ANOTHER, LEADING TO EVER MORE COMPLEX WEBS OF PC ENTANGLEMENT IN SHIT THEY WEREN’T EVEN INVOLVED IN, WHICH MAKES FOR GREAT FUN WHEN THEY DISCOVER THEY HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF PIRACY OR HIGH BRIGANDRY OR HERESY BY SOME ASSHOLE THREE PLACES REMOVED WHO NEEDS A CONVENIENT SCAPEGOAT ON WHOM TO PLACE HIS TROUBLES.
TASTEFUL AD&D 2E CENSORSHIP OF WANGS AND NIPPLES, FROM THE FORGOTTEN REALMS SOURCEBOOK SEA OF FALLEN STARS.
COKED-UP MERMAN DRESSED IN HIS NEW POSEIDON COSTUME SAYS, “MOTHERFUCKER I ASKED YOU, ‘WHO LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA?’”
WHEN I MOVED TO MANKATO, MN, THE PEOPLE IN MY GRADUATE PROGRAM TOLD ME, “DON’T GO TO THE LITTLE HYVEE [a grocery store chain indiginous to MN and IA] DOWNTOWN. THAT’S THE GHETTO HYVEE.”
MY WIFE AND I SOON VISITED THE LITTLE HYVEE AND SAW THE PART OF TOWN IN WHICH IT IS LOCATED. WHAT WE SAW, WAS A FULL-SIZED GROCERY STORE LOCATED NEXT TO THE CIVIC CENTER, DOWNTOWN COLLEGE BARS AND CLUBS, REPUTABLE BUSINESSES, THE POLICE STATION. WE WERE CONFUSED. WHERE I GREW UP, THERE WAS (AND STILL IS) A TRAILER PARK THE CITY REFUSED TO ANNEX DESPITE HAVING INCORPORATED EVERYTHING AROUND IT. THAT WAS A GHETTO. I’VE DRIVEN MANY TIMES IN AND THROUGH EAST ST. LOUIS: GHETTO PAR EXCELLENCE. AND MANY YEARS AGO, MY WIFE LIVED FOR A TIME IN AN ACTUAL GHETTO IN HOUSTON, TX. SO, LIKE I SAID, WE WERE CONFUSED.