Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dungeon Mastering: Scoring the Scene

One thing I have learned over the years of playing and running Dungeons & Dragons (and, for that matter, other role-playing games) is that every Dungeon Master (or Marshall, or Fixer, or Game Master, or ...) does things a little bit differently. Introducing technology to the table is something that every GM has to think about when they host a game. Although I always insist that I run my D&D games without any technology, I do make one exception: I provide the score.

Bringing Sound to the Game Table

Having sound or music at the game table can add a lot of weight to heated battles, dangerous treks, sinister meetings, and any other sort of scene imaginable. The D&D blog Meta Gamemastery addresses ways to bring both sound and music to the table. As somebody who has what is usually described as "peculiar" musical tastes, I thought I would provide some additional suggestions regarding the musical category.

With the advancement of fancy gadgetry, the need to have a laptop at the table is lessened. A lot of good sound or musical work can be done from a tablet or even a sophisticated MP3 player. I have personally built up a collection of "D&D Playlists" in my iTunes that could easily be ported to any sort of compatible device (such as an iPod or other MP3 player). With a pair of good speakers or a home entertainment system, that iPod can be used to provide a score for every scene imaginable just by deftly switching between playlists.

People with more elaborate sound setups have more options. I personally route an AppleTV to my home stereo system which I control via my iOS devices (using the Remote app). That way, I can be sitting across the room from my audio rig and be able to control what is playing on the fly.

The Source of the Score

Finding music to use at your game table can be difficult. When thinking about what kind of music to bring to the table, it is important to think about what your game session will entail. The last thing you want to have is the fated meeting of a PC and her nemesis underscored by Yakety Sax. Well, unless that is the effect you want to go for, which could work perfectly well.

Back in 2003, Wizards of the Coast published a "Dungeons & Dragons Soundtrack" composed by Midnight Syndicate. Midnight Syndicate is a group of musicians known mostly for composing what can only be described as Haunted House soundtracks. They have released something on the order of fifteen albums although the bulk of them are geared towards "horror" music. Some people get their start "scoring" a D&D game with this but I honestly recommend passing on it as Midnight Syndicate tends to sound too synthetic. I do not mean to say that they are bad but I suspect most groups will find them a bit awkward.

A DM friend of mine uses a lot of pieces from the Pirates of the Caribbean scores (Klaus Badelt, Hans Zimmer). There are a few sinister pieces that can help set a grim tone (The Kraken from Dead Man's Chest). There are also a number of action pieces that can be useful when the party is turning the tide in combat, defeating the villain's plan (both from The Curse Of The Black Pearl), or just escaping on a giant water wheel. Overall, the collected scores for Pirates of the Caribbean have quite a few useful musical overtures and melodies to throw into any Dungeons & Dragons adventure to liven up the action or suspense.
You know. That part of the movie.
Of course, sometimes you need music for something more tranquil or mysterious. The SyFy television series Battlestar Galactica had a number of interesting pieces in the score. I put together a playlist using a few of the "Opera House" melodies that has served well as a "calm yet mysterious" set (Passacaglia, Allegro, and The Shape of Things to Come). It tends to fit that part in the adventure where everything seems to have come together in the PCs favor but there is still that lingering notion that something has gone undone or forgotten. Then again, Bear McCready's fondness for taiko drums could serve well in some sort of heated combat scene.

Looking to Games for the Score

As a person who has collected a number of video game soundtracks, I have a rather wide selection of musical pieces to choose from. Interestingly, a lot of video game scores were designed to be repeated, making it more effective for a scene in a RPG in which I cannot control the pacing at the table. For example, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of the scores for Metal Gear Solid 2-4. Many a mysterious meeting has happened in my D&D games with Drebin 893 playing in the background.

Drebin 893: Making every mysterious meeting that much seedier.
There are other pieces for other types of scenes. I have done important hand-to-hand conflicts with Snake Eater's CQC and Last Showdown as the background music. More action oriented battles warrant a mix of high-energy boss themes, such as one of my battle playlists featuring The Pain, The Fear, and The Fury. Although a game like Metal Gear Solid is set in a high-tech future (or, near future), the music still works perfectly well for an action oriented scene like battle.

For music that feels more thematically appropriate, I cannot recommend the Total War series enough. Jeff van Dyck has some amazing compositions in Medieval, Shogun, and Rome that would fit well in a fantasy themed campaign (although Shogun may be more Kara-Tur/Rokugan relevant). I have at least three different playlists (two battle, one for grim exploration) taken entirely from the Rome: Total War soundtrack. Consider Warrior March, Melee Cafe, and Mayhem to score an intense battle.

Of course, there are many other games that provide interesting songs to play during a Dungeons & Dragons session. The greatest difficulty with using video game music is finding it in a convenient format. Although popular in East Asia, video game music is still a niche thing in the United States of America. One of the easiest places to look is iTunes; a lot of publishers have been putting scores on iTunes in the last three or four years. You can find a number of meaningful soundtracks, including recent Total War titles, any number of Call of Duty or Medal of Honor soundtracks, and even some more interesting collections like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, or The Sims: Medeival.

More to Come

There are a lot of different pieces of music that can bring a lot to a game session. I touched on a few that I use but there are plenty more. Knowing your style and the style of your group is important to finding the right musical style. Although I joked about it earlier, Yakety Sax may be the perfect fit for your relatively silly fantasy adventure game. Going forward, I intend to post additional albums that I find useful in setting the proper tone for my Dungeons & Dragons game. Hopefully, you can find something that suits your style best.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Legal Issues in Gaming: Copyrighting Games

Gaming has always had a strange relationship with the law. Most gamers get exposed to the intersection by hearing about a lawsuit involving a game company or some website takedown of potentially infringing content. Certain developments within the tabletop gaming community in the past decade have created a general consensus within the community as to what the law is regarding gaming and how it can be applied. However, that consensus has a significant array of errors, falsities, and critical misunderstandings. I thought it would be relevant to address some of the relevant aspects of intellectual property law in the United States so as to help correct some of those misunderstandings.

Copyright: The Place to Start

The Federal Constitution grants Congress the power "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries[.]" U.S. Const. Art I, Sec 8. Copyright is one of those methods created by Congress through federal statutory law. The basic purpose of copyright protection is summed up in section 102 of the copyright statute.
Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories: (1) literary works; (2) musical works, including any accompanying words; (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (4) pantomimes and choreographic works; (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (7) sound recordings; and (8) architectural works.
17 USC §102(a). If an author creates something that falls under the types of creative expression protected by copyright, that author will retain certain rights over the work. This includes controlling reproduction and distribution of the work but also includes derivative works, which are creative expressions based on the original work. In the context of tabletop gaming, the question is whether or not a game (be it board game, role-playing game, etc.) falls under the protections of copyright.

Monopoly: Helping to clarify the Law of Gaming for almost 80 years

Parker Brothers Monopoly! One of the most
 notorious games in the history of gaming law.
Sorry. Everything is
copyrighted. Or is it?
As an iconic example to consider, I thought I would look at the classic Parker Brothers Hasbro board game Monopoly. [Note: The story of Monopoly is extremely long and complicated. I am using it as an example because it is something that a majority of people are familiar with. Interested parties should look up the peculiar details of Monopoly's history for the full story.] With Monopoly, the "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural" components of the game would be subject to copyright. This would include the artistic representation of the game board, the distinctive playing pieces, art on the box, and other artistic components. Even the money used in the game would be a protected creative expression.

Diligent readers may observe that I avoided addressing the rules of the game. Would the rules fall under copyright? This is the question that is most important in considering gaming issues in law. If it is possible to protect the rules of the game, a game designer would have a great deal of influence in preventing others from releasing similar games. As it ends up, the specific expression of the rules is protected by copyright (essentially, as a literary work). What this means is that the rulebook as written is a protected creative expression. If somebody were to reproduce and distribute the rulebook without permission, they would be in violation of the owner's copyright (which, in the case of Monopoly, is Hasbro, Inc.).

When looking at it under a bare reading of the copyright law, it would appear that almost everything that is Monopoly is protected under copyright. To a certain extent, a majority of the content in the game is protected is some way or another. However, section 102 has some additional language worth considering.
In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
17 USC §102(b). Courts seem to debate what these different concepts mean within the context of copyright law, but it is clear that there are a series of things that are specifically exempted from copyright protection. Among these exemptions are ideas, procedures, processes, systems, and methods of operation. Although courts may argue as to which exemption would apply (or, ignore the specifics altogether), the consensus is that the rules of a game like Monopoly fall under the exemptions to copyright.
No copyrighted images or sculptures... Is it okay?
So what does this mean? If a person made a board game that was systemically identical to Monopoly but changed the artistic expressions (i.e. new art, images, names, tokens, and rulebook), would the owner of the copyright of Monopoly have any legal action under copyright law? Assuming that all of the copyrighted expressions (art, tokens, rulebook, etc) were distinct and different, the original copyright holder would have no action available under copyright law. As non-copyrightable expression, the fundamental element of the game falls outside of the legal protections of copyright.

Moving Beyond Copyright

All this being said, this does not mean that no legal protections exists for the rules of a game like Monopoly. There are other areas within intellectual property law, such as patents or trademark, that may apply. A game designer interested in protecting the specific system or rules of the game would have to look elsewhere in intellectual property law. In the future, I will address some of these other legal structures and how they apply to gaming.

The statements made in this article are the opinions of the author (and the author alone) and do not constitute legal advice. Comments posted on this article do not create an attorney-client relationship. For further reading, the author recommends Bruce E. Boyden's "Games and Other Uncopyrightable Systems." 18 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 439 (2011). Recommended listening: Episode 16 of the Law of the Geek podcast, available at

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Borrowing Role-Playing Ideas: G.I. Joe

A lot of Dungeons & Dragons supplements talk about borrowing adventure or story ideas from other sources. Even other role-playing games make a point of suggesting that a Game Master, whether experienced or not, take a cue from other sources of fiction. Television, movies, books, and comics can be a great source of inspiration for elements within a good Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
Luskan, City of Vice (circa 1479 DR)
My Neverwinter campaign recently found its way to Luskan, City of Vice. Although there are legitimate reasons they came to Luskan, the real intention was for one of the characters, a boy ninja from Luskan, to have an important reunion from his past. The development actually started early on in the campaign, while they were still trying to stop the machinations of the Lost Heir of Neverwinter, but a trip to Luskan was the opportunity I needed to bring the boy ninja face-to-face with his childhood nemesis. I thought I would go over how this storyline developed and how I tore thematic elements from other sources.

Adversaries from the Past

The 1980s cartoon/toy commercial G.I. Joe had a pair of ninjas, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. The rivalry between these two characters throughout the different G.I. Joe continuities changes, but it is always based on the idea that they have shared history. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were ninjas trained by the same person, the Hard Master. [Note: No, seriously. The Hard Master.] Years later, after the mysterious death of their master, Snake Eyes firmly believed that Storm Shadow had killed their master and the two found themselves on opposite sides of the Cobra-Joe conflict. The peculiar space between brother and nemesis was something I felt could make a great contribution to my Dungeons & Dragons game.

The iconic 1980s story of brother against brother.
Despite the popularity of childhood nemeses in ninja-themed literature, comic book ninjas are not the only place that the story of two "brothers" that end up on opposite sides in some conflict. It even appears historically: the US Civil War has always iconically been known as the war that set brother against brother. But, whether it be Civil War soldiers or ninjas, the idea of family conflict spread out across a greater battle is interesting and worth inserting into a role-playing game scenario. It is the kind of things a game like Fiasco was made for but that does not mean it cannot be an excellent contribution to a game like Dungeons & Dragons.

Development of the Ninja Brothers

Ninjas! Never be afraid to add
a popular meme to your D&D.
When I started the Neverwinter campaign, one of the players decided relatively quickly that he wanted to be a boy ninja. Somehow, Luskan got worked into the narrative. Pretty soon, we had a story about a kid from a checkered past getting picked up by an old master in Luskan and trained in the way of the Ninja. [Note: At the time, I did not know of the significant Shou presence in Luskan. This worked out surprisingly well for me in the long run.] I decided, relatively easily, why the boy ninja would leave Luskan: his master had been murdered and boy ninja had been caught at the scene. With no other recourse, he fled south to Neverwinter and eventually Waterdeep.

Most of this backstory had been contributed by the player with a few details worked out with my help. Once the campaign started, I decided to start inserting little things to see where the story could go. Early on, I asked the player whether or not he had been trained alone or if there was another young ninja student with him. At that point, the "ninja brother" was born. He had no name or identity other than "ninja brother." Of course, like every story of ninja brothers, this one would likely end in bitter rivalry. Every now and then I would remind my player about his ninja brother but I did not push the idea, letting it slowly simmer.

The Neverwinter campaign actually began with Erik Scott de Bie's Dungeons & Dragons: Encounters adventure Lost Crown of Neverwinter. During Session 6: Arrival in Blacklake, the party finds The House of a Thousand Faces, an inn and bar where they hope to find signs of the Lost Heir. They run into Charl, a name-worthy halfling thug of the Dead Rats in Neverwinter. During this encounter, I had Charl identify our ninja boy as the Reaver of Luskan. This was something I threw in, not quite sure how I wanted it to resolve. Would it be that ninja boy was this reputed Reaver of Luskan? It seemed just as likely that ninja boy was mistaken for his ninja brother; most residents of Luskan and Neverwinter would not expect that there were two kid ninjas. Two ninjas would be ridiculous.

Let me recap this story, so far: An ancient ninja master trains two young boys. After a few years, the ninja master is murdered and one of the students escapes. That ninja boy is accused of the murder. The other student, nowhere to be seen at the time of the murder, resurfaces later and gets involved with the wrong kind of crowd.
Eben07's Ninja Dan and Justin. Not the ninja brothers you expected?
My player's ninja boy character would routinely ask Dead Rats that he came across about the Reaver of Luskan, trying to figure out what it was all about. All he kept hearing was that this strange fellow was a brutal murderer, carrying out assassinations for King Toytere of the Dead Rats. As our ninja boy had already conceived that his character spent time as an assassin when he was still a member of the Dead Rats, this did not seem inconsistent with his own character view. No significant development occurred throughout the rest of the Lost Crown of Neverwinter, but ninja boy's player still felt like this was something that continued to need investigating.

Return to the Homeland

When the party found its way to Luskan, ninja boy showed some concern about being in Luskan. He had found a local alchemist in Neverwinter who provided him with a magical ointment that prevented people from passively noticing who he was. [Note: For the Doctor Who fans out there, I did give one of the characters a short-term perception filter.] The party got into a brief conflict with Dead Rats that ended in the realization that Toytere had some sort of lofty plans and that he was working with mysterious partners.

After about a day into the Luskan venture, the party was approached by Mitsurugi Yoshikage, Shou sword master. After proving their worth, he took them to the leadership of the Shou in Luskan. This is where our ninja boy discovered that his ninja brother had been the actual murderer of their master and that he now worked as an assassin for Toytere. They demanded that ninja boy find and defeat his brother in order to restore honor to their master, the suspiciously named Ryujin. With that set, the epic Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow (or, more appropriately, Ninja Dan/Justin) conflict had been set in motion in the streets of Luskan.

Only time will tell how this conflict will be resolved.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dungeon Mastering: Giving Players Control

Although I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons for decades, it was not until very recently that fundamental changes to my style of play began to appear. About a year and a half ago, I joined a game run by a friend of mine. It was set in Eberron and involved a group of characters that would eventually become known as the Hatheril Sheriff's Department. What was important about this game was that the DM did something one session that began to change the way I looked at playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Eberron. Where every race has an identity crisis.
During one session, the party came to a small village as they were heading across the Talenta Plains. The told us that a vast dragon flew overhead, high in the sky. We all thought about this for a moment and the DM suddenly asked each of us if we had seen a dragon before. It was a question with no right answer but it gave all of us an opportunity to think about whether or not our character had seen a dragon before. [Note: Talking to him later, he admitted that although generally no answer was a wrong answer, there would be some responses that would have needed grooming. For example, "Of course my character has seen a dragon! He shared an apartment in Sharn with a dragon for three years!"] The idea that the DM gave players a little bit of control over the narrative was a really great feeling for me as a player.

I have tried to find ways to give that kind of narrative control to players. As I continue to run multiple games, I find new and different ways to subtly (or not-so-subtly) give players the ability to drive the direction in which the story goes. There are different ways to shift narrative control to the players. Some of them are relatively simple while others can quickly become quite complicated. I thought I would discuss a very simple one here: developing character (back)story with players. For a take on collaborative dungeon design, consider reading this article at Dungeon'

Collaboratively Developing the Character's Story

Today's Forecast: Partially cloudy with a
95% chance of Blazing Inferno.
Having players develop the history and relationships of a character can be an important way to allow players to contribute to the narrative. A lot of groups probably already do it on a basic level by having players write a bit of backstory that the DM integrates into the adventure. That kind of process can even be done as a group. When a new player in my Waterdeep campaign showed up with a character that was the "Chief" Meteorologist of Waterdeep, we spent some time talking about why he left the Meteorologist's Guild to take up a life of adventuring. Between sessions, several of my players were together and came up with the idea of another meteorologist in the guild, a sort of nemesis for our Chief Meteorologist. This nemesis was another meteorologist within the Guild who had lofty ambitions to do more than just predict the weather. Soon enough, this character (who would eventually become a gnome) was named: Chet Doppler.

Although he has yet to appear and threaten the heroes of Waterdeep, Chet Doppler is potential villain that the group helped create. By giving my players control of significant portions of the narrative, I have made my work as a Dungeon Master easier and allowed the players to invest in more than just their own character. Every player that helped contribute to the development of Chet Doppler knows that this is a potential threat lurking on the horizon. When he finally appears to menace Waterdeep, it will be something familiar yet also new. Most importantly, it is something that the players contributed as much (if not more) to as the Dungeon Master.

Giving Power to the Player

There are many other ways to give narrative control to the players. Collaboratively developing backstory, history, and potential enemies and allies is just one thing that shifts the game from being just the Dungeon Master's game to everybody's game. Although this style of more collaborative play may not appeal to every player or group, it can help get everybody more involved with the story of a campaign in a greater way than they may have been normally. For Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that focus on character and story, this can make it a lot more fun for everybody at the table.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Game Design: The Eben07 Card Game

I have been tossing around game design ideas ever since I first tried to make my own "custom Talisman" expansion back in 2001. [Note: Yes, I actually tried to make an expansion to Talisman, 2nd Edition, back in 2001. It did not work out. The world is better because of it.] Every few years, something would spark my interest again and I would write a few notes but I never really got especially far with it. As I became more involved with the modern tabletop gaming scene, I began to realize that a lot of games had already been made. A lot of the things that I thought the world needed had been done in one way or another.

Fast forward to December 2011. One of my biggest frustrations with game design is that I like having an idea for the aesthetic. Specifically, I like having art. Two old friends of mine were well into their fourth year of publishing a webcomic, Eben07. The comic is about a government agency, the Intelligence Cleaner Agency, responsible for cleaning up after supers spies like James Bond. I started thinking about it and I realized that the comic would be a great theme for a simple card game. Furthermore, I had easy access to quality art assets. From there, I began designing.

Eben07: The Card Game

The basic idea of the Eben07 card game is that each player represents one of the different factions or organizations featured in the webcomic. These different factions are trying to complete various missions which are worth points. The missions represent any number of different things featured in the comic, from raiding Countess Vampirexia's castle in Eastern Europe to hiding a very specific Soviet ballistic missile submarine in a river.
Raid on the Vampire's Castle!
Each player plays a faction, represented by a deck of 20 cards. Each faction has different strengths and weaknesses, with the idea that each deck plays towards different strategies. While one faction may focus on recycling cards in their discard pile, another faction might focus on synergistic card assignment.

The Assignment Phase

Players draw a hand of cards from their individual deck representing different agents and minions of the organization. During the game round, players take turns assigning cards to missions (generally, face-down in a single pile). Some cards have the "Action" keyword and can be played on a turn to achieve a specific effect, like drawing additional cards or pulling cards out of a discard pile. Inspired by Saint Petersburg, I also included the idea that a player could pass but still stay in the round. The round would continue until every player passed in succession.

Ninja Dan reacts.
The goal with assigning cards to missions is to have the more of the appropriate skill than any other player. Missions can be either Cloak & Dagger missions (indicated by white text on black background) or Mop & Bucket missions (indicated by black text on white background). Each card has skill numbers in the upper left and right corners that match up with the color-scheme of the two mission types. Ninja Dan, an important card in the ICA faction, has 3 Cloak & Dagger skill and 2 Mop & Bucket skill, making him slightly better at those Cloak & Dagger missions.

Players are not required to play all of their cards and may want to retain some cards in their hand. This allows for a certain amount of hand grooming for the next round. Some cards have the "Reaction" keyword which means they can be played in response to some event. For example, Ninja Dan has the Reaction ability to "Cancel any card played as an Action or Reaction." Some Reaction abilities get more sophisticated, such as canceling reveal effects or forcing players to discard cards that they assign to missions.

The Resolution Phase

One of the more powerful
Reveal effects...
Once the Assignment Phase is over, the game moves to the Resolution Phase.  In the Resolution Phase, players would go to each mission, one at a time, and reveal the cards assigned to it from top to bottom. I realized that an important gameplay element would be to take advantage of that revelation. Some cards have the "Reveal" keyword which means that the card does something when turned face-up on a mission. Some of these are simple effects while some of them get quite involved.

Perhaps the most powerful Reveal effect in the game belongs to the Countess Vampirexia. As a vampire and leader of her faction (referred to as the Cult of Vampirexia), it made sense that she should be relatively powerful. When her card is revealed on a mission, the Vampirexia player is allowed to discard any other face-up card assigned to that mission. Thus, any card already revealed (or, assigned face-up) would be vulnerable to the Countess' attack.

Once all of the cards assigned to a mission are revealed, each player totals the mission-appropriate skill of their cards assigned to the mission. Whichever player has the most completes the mission and puts the card into their scoring area. Once each mission is resolved, one at a time, the game round ends. Assuming that no player has achieved the victory condition (some number of points, say 12-15), players draw up a new hand of cards and deal out a new set of mission cards for the next round.

Development Continues

The Eben07 card game is something that is still in development and everything here is subject to change. Right now, it is a 2-4 player game that plays in roughly 30-45 minutes. With every playtest iteration, I learn more about things that work and things that could use improvement. Hopefully, in the next few months I can go into greater detail about the different factions and how they work in the context of the game.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Council of Spiders, Part 6

One of the weird issues I have with Dungeons & Dragons in later editions (3.0+) was that although there were no mechanical limits on race-class combinations, there still existed mechanical features that dis-incentivized certain combinations. In Fourth Edition, it became even more prevalent as races had fixed attribute bonuses. Since a Dwarf could never get an Intelligence bonus, a Dwarf wizard would never be as good as a Human wizard or a Tiefling wizard. Similarly, a Drow would normally never make as good a fighter as a Dwarf or a Goliath. Because of the design that went into it, maximizing hit rates became exceedingly important so having a higher primary ability score was exceedingly important.

This became extremely obvious in the current season of Dungeons & Dragons: Encounters, where every pre-made character had its race changed to Drow. Now, the slayer fighter is less effective than he had been when he was a Dwarf. The wizard is less effective than when he was a Human. As a person who has been bending the Character Builder to his will for as long as I have, this really bothered me. Unfortunately, House Xorlarrin, one of the three houses involved with the adventure, is supposed to focus on arcane spell-casting. I tried to find ways I could get arcane spell-casters to match up well with a Drow without simply breaking the build requirements. Pelloth is my attempt at doing just that.
Pelloth, graduate of Sorcere.
He does have a wizard-like feel to him.
The powers exhibited by the Gloom Pact Binder seemed to fit in with the arcane Drow ideal. Pelloth manipulates the shadows, darkness, and gloom as taught to him at Sorcere. The cold hand of darkness envelops all who stand before him in his quest to construct the Demon Weave. Furthermore, as the primary ability scores for the Gloom Pact Binder are Dexterity and Charisma, it fit perfectly well with the Drow ability scores.

With Pelloth, players at Dungeons & Dragons: Encounters don't have to feel like being a part of House Xorlarrin means you have to be slightly less effective than the rest of the party. Hopefully, I can figure out other clever ways to match up arcane power with the Drow attribute set.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Council of Spiders, Part 5

The current D&D: Encounters season, Council of Spiders, is more than half over. However, it has reached the point in the story where things have begun to get more suspicious and entangled. Characters may have already begun forming suspicions about how the other characters intend to backstab them at the worst possible time. That is, assuming they have not done so already.

To continue in my journey of supplementing the D&D: Encounters collection of pre-made characters, I am providing another Drow to join the ranks. This Drow, however, is a bit different than most of the rest. This Drow, a male of House Melarn, has a very different purpose and goals than most of the members of his house.
Sorin, Elderboy of House Melarn and Drow Vampire
His goal is nothing short of the toppling of House Melarn.
The inspiration for this character came from one of the players in my weekly D&D Encounters group. He had actually read quite a bit of the new D&D book, Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue. He suggested a character to me that was not a member of any of the three groups set forth in the Encounters season. Instead, he chose a member of Jaezred Chaulssin who was masquerading as a member of another house. To that end, he often acted suspiciously when certain events would occur as his character actively tried to upset the plans of Lolth and House Melarn. Imagine his surprise when the assassin in session 5 was also a member of Jaezred Chaulssin...

I liked the idea of somebody within House Melarn secretly intending to upset the plans of House Melarn and the Spider Queen. With the story proceeding as it goes, it would not be especially difficult to drive a wedge between the houses. So, an Elderboy from House Melarn with a big chip on his shoulder became the basis for this character. From there, imbuing him with the power of the vampire just seemed to make sense. I thought of this idea, n Elderboy who had discovered power that made him better than the priestesses that had beaten him for so many decades, and it just made sense.

Hopefully, this character will give people a new take on the Council of Spiders. Unlike the other four characters I made, I made Sorin a level 2 character so he would fit along with the rest of the party.