Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What You Missed- Feast of Neden by Angela "Phoenix" Gray

While it started slowly, with many people drifting in late, Feast of Neden was a solid event with a little something for everyone.  We were fortunate to have a beautiful day and the combat, which included informal practice and four Order of the List tournaments, happened outside. The day was relaxed, and in addition to combat there were people playing games, working on crafts, browsing in Karma’s shop, and gambling at the New Eden Casino.

Food included salad, soup, and bread that was out on a day board.  Rumor had it that the vegetable beef soup was “Nick's-mom-made” and was excellent.  The main meal was catered BBQ with ribs, chicken and a variety of sides (slaw, squash, corn, and mac & cheese).  Desert which was also homemade (primarily by Casey “Karma” with some additional contributions from Nick's mom, Jason and I) included a full variety of fall favors with mini apple pies and mini pumpkin cheese cakes as well as pineapple upside down cake, mint chocolate chip cookies and a “Neden Bash” (think Kahlua bash from Feast of Folkestone but with crème de mint instead of Kahlua and thin mints crumbled on top instead of heath bar pieces).

A unique tournament was the harlequin humor bardic. Tuilli kicked it off with a bawdry song. He was followed by Rhiannon who recited and original and humorous poem. She however forgot she was in Neden and kept it pg.  Garharz, did not make that mistake and his raunchy verse took the prize.

Also of note was the auction. There were about a dozen items which include leather goods from Chaos Dwarf Armory, mead, event admissions, and a certificate for custom bracers from Karma Creations.  We felt extremely fortunate to win it for a mere 25 gold.  Even a magic hat only brought in 200 gold. There were many deals to be had.  

Behind The Curtain: Consequenses for Failure by Mikey "Janus Donnally

The crazed mage Lacklion knew the heroes would try to stop him.  After all, the Unseen Evil has been kept at bay for thousands of years, and today would be the day they could enter the world again.  The stars were aligned and the ritual was nearly finished.  Only five minutes remained until the force was unleashed.  The heroes were fighting to break through his wards, but they would never get here in time.  A force of power walks up to Lacklion.  “Look, the PCs are later than we expected, and we don’t have the Unseen Evil masks ready for today, so the ritual is going to take an extra hour to complete.”  Lacklion glared at the force of power, but accepted it’s fate.  In an hour and five minutes, the force will fail to be unleashed, all due to those meddling heroes..

Recently on the Realms facebook group, someone mentioned that having magic items on quests do not matter, because all quests succeed anyway.  I have been on several quests which have failed, but I have also walked away from most of them alive.  This is because a party wipe is only one kind of failure.  In today’s article, I am going to be discussing the different types of failure the Realms can provide, when failure should occur, and the consequences for failure.

Every quest should have a purpose.  Even if it is just a silly time-filling quest, there should be a goal for the quest (or even better, a series of goals).  When the goal is achieved, the quest is over (although sometimes at this point, the goal is changed to “escape/get out”).   The other way the quest can end is when the goal is no longer possible.  While a good quest can have no plan for failure or even be unable to be failed, the best quests I have been on have had failure with severe consequences as an option.

The first kind of failure (which is the way most people think of failure) is the dreaded party wipe.  Every person on the quest is dead, and nobody is going to be alive again without outside intervention.  When this occurs, it is almost exclusively with a small group of PCs on a short quest (think an Adventurer’s Guild or Nexus quest), because someone with embrace death, feign death, intervention, a Magic Item, regionals, or cry of life will save the party if it is a 30+ person quest.  One of the other reasons this is rare is if a party wipe occurs early in a quest (lets say after 1 hour in a 6 hour quest), the EH has a tough choice.  Either the party will stay dead for the next 5 hours and everyone will be unhappy or some sort of deus ex machina will occur so the players can keep having fun.  A demon will start making deals, gods will raise people, or just a cry of life will go off for no reason.  With small parties, a group can be rescued and returned to their start point (once again, see the Adventurer’s Guild), but this method only really works in a quest setting where multiple quests are occurring at once.  It doesn’t solve anything if all the PCs are on a site-wide quest through the woods.

The second type of failure which can occur is the PC’s run out of time to complete their objective.  While a clear example is “Complete the quest before Midnight, when the gate closes,” a more muddied example is to “kill the lich before he completes his ritual.”  These quests can easily fail with the PCs still alive.  In fact, as time runs out, the PCs usually push harder and spend any tricks they still have in reserve just to try to save a few extra seconds to avoid failing.  

The third variety of failure is simply just not achieving the objective.  This is most common in situations such as “defend a point or person,” “catch a target before he escapes,” or “find the widget.”  Any time a clear objective becomes impossible (or impossible in a reasonable timescale) is a failure for the quest.  Sometimes, as the PCs arrive to the the room where the magical Amulet of Andor exists, a demon will be in process of stealing it, and should the demon get away with the amulet, the PC’s lost the quest.  Failing this quest should also have consequences (which I’ll be discussing in just a second...I promise).

The final flavor of failure is not exactly what most people would view as failure.  This is when PC groups disagree on what a goal is, and a decision is reached which works against someone’s goal.  A recent example would be The Shadow King.  A group of players (which I was amongst) wanted to redeem him and fix the mistakes that were made.  He was eventually defeated and put to death, which is what some people wanted done.  The people who wanted the death of the Shadow King succeeded, while people who wanted to redeem Jonas failed.  Having both choices and conflicting goals can lead to cases where some PCs succeed while others fail, and this leads to interesting choices.

Now that we have covered some of the different ways a quest can fail, there has to be a consequence for failing.  Consequences should make sense based on what actually occurred.  If a demon stole an amulet which gives it protection from magic, then magic missile and lightning bolts won’t work against the demon in future encounters.  If a lich is doing a ritual to gain power and succeeds, perhaps he is now able to control PCs with Embrace Death.  If the quest was to gather the 5 parts of a sword to reforge it to slay the evil horrors and only 4 parts were recovered, then it is going to be a lot harder to slay the evil horror (I will be discussing this case in particular in a future article).  The demon shouldn’t suddenly ascend to godhood.  The lich shouldn’t join up with the PCs to help them go questing, and the evil horror shouldn’t be easily killed by something else instead.

Besides making a consequence sensible, there is an important rule about designing consequences which needs to be emphasized.  If you threaten a consequence, you need to follow through with it.  If you fail to follow through, there is no reason for the PCs to believe the consequence next time.  The corollary to this is to not threaten anything you are not willing or able to follow through with.  This doesn’t mean an NPC can’t bluff or lie, but if the consequence for failing a quest is the Realms will be destroyed then either A) there is no way for them to fail the quest, or B) if they do fail the quest, the Realms isn’t going to end (whether you wanted it to or not).  Why should a PC believe the Realms will be destroyed now, after the many times it has not been destroyed already.  On the other side though, if you follow through on the threats you made, the PCs are more likely to take you seriously when you give them an ultimatum in the future.  They are more likely to believe you when you say they have exactly 5 minutes before the bad guy succeeds at turning a city to a smouldering ruin.  They will not think you are bluffing when you threaten a characters life.

To sum up, when designing events in the future, don’t underestimate the value of planning for failure. Tying together PCs goals, actions, and resulting consequences in a logical way will add to the depth of your world and the players’ immersion.

Do you agree? Disagree?  Did I miss something?  What are consequences for failure you have encountered? Feel free to leave a note in the comments.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blast From the Past- View From Valehaven Jan/Feb 2006

This is an excellent View to check out. First it is huge, bigger than similar issues. It has so many good articles, interviews and stories. The best part is that it is only 8 years old. Many of the names in this issue still go to events or are names we still talk about in stories. It is our recent past.
[Thanks to Janna "Iawen" Oakfellow-Pushee for the scans.]

WIWtG Black and White

If you read the description of the Black and White Ball that is on Realmsnet, the Ball seems to be a rather modest affair.  DO NOT BE FOOLED.
The reason there is not much in the way of "Heres why you should go" is because everyone knows.  The Black and White has a long history with the game, and most people can't imagine a year without this pillar of an event.  Unlike many of our cornerstone events, this one focuses on culture:  food, court, fashion, and dancing are center stage at this gala.
Sure, during the day, there are a few mini quests (some are private, as a heads up) and some fun tournaments, but the real fun begins at night.
A few tips about this event:
* Bring 2 sets of garb.  You will want your run around/questing garb for the day, and your fanciest attire for the evening.  And tradition tells us to wear a mask, so death will not notice you.  Tradition says you should also wear black and white.
* Have fun and get tickets!  There is a great auction, but you need to earn those tickets.
* There will be court.  Not just court, but Court.  Its capitalized because it is always a Big Deal.  It can be long, but very interesting.
* Be hungry.  While this is not technically a feast, the only thing preventing it from having that title is sitting space.  Vast amounts of food.  Its all delicious.  Except the crabbies.  Terrible, those.  Just slide them to me, and I will save you all from them.
* Flaunt it!  Wear your fanciest, show it off, and enjoy the evening.  Ive even heard rumors of a reward for Best Dressed.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Secrets of - Part One

Part One- Events

The single most important resource for the Realms is (yes, even more than the View From Valehaven). It provides up to date event announcements, player and character lists, the ability to create event listings, automates voting for the View From Valehaven Awards, facilitates the Event Holder's Council proposals, has an online version of the rules/Omnibus, and has other useful tools. And while nothing on it is truly secret, for a new player (and some experienced ones) there is a lot of good material on that not everyone might know about. This series of articles will endeavor to highlight some of these resources.

First up, lets look at the singular best feature of the site, the one you will be looking at the most.

In the bottom right of the site there is the list of Upcoming Events. This shows the next 5 events that are upcoming with title and date (you may have to scroll down to see them all). You can click on the name of the event and this link will take you directly to the event write-up which will give you all the information you need about the event.

After the list of 5, there is a link entitled Event Calendar. Clicking on this link will bring you to the current month with all the events for that month. There is a wealth of information on this calendar.

-Dates in Red are combat practices. Click on the name and it will give you more information about the practice site. These are times and places that a person can show up to practice their combat skills. Most practices last a few hours. You can check out the different ones to see which one is close to you.

-Dates in Green are events that have a site and are confirmed as a Realms legal event. There are some factors that have to be met before an event can be deemed legal and Green means that the event listing has met those criteria. The event will still need to fulfill other criteria on the day of the event (have the required number of players, etc) before it can be deemed a legal event.

-Dates in Blue are for events that have not met all the requirements to be a legal event or are defined as not a legal event by the person who placed the event up on the Calendar. Often some eventholders will "reserve" a date by placing it on the Calendar without confirming a site. Other times the Blue may indicate the date is being used for something other than an event, such as a site clean-up day, or the Event-Goers Meeting. Often dates in Blue will change to Green before the day of the event to signify they have "fixed" whatever was holding the event back from being legal (such as confirming an event site).

Note that some dates can have multiple different events on it. This is shown by a dividing line between the two (or three) events. However, they are all still listed in the same Date box.

The Event Calendar is rather robust. At the bottom of the Calendar a person can move forward or backward on the Calendar to other months. Or they can choose a specific month and year to move directly to that month.

All event write-ups remain up on realmsnet even after the event has ended...all the way back 1999. Here you can read the Event Description. Often this will give some indication of what the event was all about (assuming the eventholder (EH) for the event wrote a good one). There can also be an Event Wrap-Up as written by the EH. The third thing is that a person can review an event and these will also be shown here. This is a good way to research what other people thought of the event, especially if the event is part of a series. Or for you to leave what you thought of an event.

You'll be checking out this feature of realmsnet a lot as you plan out your event-going schedule.

Question of the Week - 167

What items have you made for your character or events?  Tell us about one or two that you are particularly proud of?

Friday, October 17, 2014

What You Missed- Green & Gold by Jesse "Mestoph" Gifford

This year's Green & Gold was a much more subdued affair than years past.  A bare handful of people turned out to compete in the annual contest of Youth and Skill vs. Age and Treachery.  The competitors all seemed to be in high spirits and looked forward to the day's events.

The day began with the traditional lining up of the competitors to divide them into their respective teams.  This year, however, the traditional Secret Chaos Ninja Battles began before the teams had even been established!  It took several of the participants a few moments to realize that if they were the last one's alive, then their team won.  That was several moments more than they had as some of the people faster to catch on rapidly dropped the people around them.  It came down to a faceoff between Quinn and Rorin, with Rorin emerging the victor and scoring the first points of the day for the Gold Team.

After that was the picking of the generals (Green/Kyro, Gold/Gherradynne), with the Green members debating hotly amongst themselves while the Gold team went with their traditional, "Not It" and proceeded to find a place to sit and some shelter from the light rain that was still persisting.  Field battles commenced and the teams were rather closely matched with all three fights coming right down to the wire.  Spirits were high, and all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

As the afternoon progressed a few more competitors filtered in, all veteran players, requiring the rebalancing of the teams.  This required a seldom seen adventurer from Eagles Rook named Lance (oddly decked out in the gear of Prince Gideon, lost in Gaol the night before) to switch sides, and the balance seemed to go with him.  While the Gold team was still possessed of skill, the team was comprised exclusively of spell casters and the Green team had a Circle of Protection.  This put the Gold team at a distinct disadvantage in the following Castle Siege, Bridge Battle, and Point Control fights

With the day waning it was decided to end the day with a game of Magic Missile Wiffle Ball.  Two innings of complicated rules changes, and general confusion, and it was decided the better way to cap off the day was with a good old fashioned game of Kick Ball.  Gold took an early 6-0 lead at the end of the top of the first, but Green would not be denied and put three runs on the board during their half of the inning.  Gold would increase their lead by two their next time up, but Green came thundering back in the bottom of the second and plated four runs.  This would not prove to be enough, and Gold came out on top 8-7.

It was not the usual Green and Gold we've all come to expect, but the staff and the players made the best of a less than ideal day.  In the end, everyone seemed to have a good time, and it was more about camaraderie than competition.

Editor's Note- Apparently Jesse did not exaggerate when he said it wasn't about competition as the morning after I received the write up he sent the following note, "I forgot to include in my write up that the event was declared a tie, Green winning the tournaments and Gold winning the kickball game."