Friday, April 20, 2018

The View Retrospective - Drawing and Art

 A piece by Maryanne English-Betie (Dame Shalindra) that gives an overview of medieval/ fantasy drawing and art.

Scanned by Jeremy Grayson
Originally published in The View from Valehaven, 2nd Edition, Volume 3, Issue 2; March 2006

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No Better Life - Chapter 2

 by Gerald "Gray" Chartier
[Editor's note: click here to read Chapter 1]

Gray glanced at Darvan as they walked down a dusty street of broken cobblestones.  “You’ve been fairly quiet,” he said.
Darvan looked at Gray.  “Yes.  Something’s bothering me.”
“What’s that?” Gray asked.
Darvan shrugged.  “I can’t quite place it.  It’s just that there’s something…familiar…about this city.”
“I can’t imagine why that might be,” Gray remarked, “Seeing as you’re from…”  He wiggled his fingers towards the darkening sky.
They approached an intersection, three of the corners occupied by rickety rebuilt half-ruins, the fourth occupied by a sprawling garden bordered by a wall of rubble – probably from the building that had stood there at one point, Gray surmised.
Darvan pointed to one of the stones low in the wall.  “Have you been seeing those?”
Gray took a better look at the stone.  Darvan wasn’t pointing to the rock so much as the figure scrawled on it.  “Huh.  Good eye.”
“I’m a shooter.  I spot things,” Darvan said, “What does it look like to you?”
Gray squatted down to examine the figure.  “Like a burning man under a crescent moon.”
Darvan nodded.  “That’s what they look like to me, too.”
“They?” Gray asked.
“I’ve been seeing them all over this town,” Darvan replied.
Gray straightened back up.  “Gang territory marking, maybe?”
Darvan shook his head.  “We’ve crossed at least two territories since we left the inn.  I’ve seen them in all of them.  Got any idea what it means?”
Gray rubbed the back of his neck.  “Not sure.  It strikes me as kind of ominous though.  Especially considering two things.”
“Which are?” Darvan prodded.
Gray held up a finger.  “One, the man in the figure is painted a metallic bronze color.”  He raised a second finger.  “Two, the phase of the moon tonight is waning crescent.”
Darvan looked up at the sky.  “We’d better get back.  It’s going to be sundown soon, and I’m not confident we can afford to wait for tomorrow to see this Scholar.  Plus, think we want to lose the tail we picked up.”
Gray nodded.  “Two guys in dark cloaks with their hoods pulled up?  Them I noticed.”
Darvan resumed strolling the way they’d been going.  “Take this right with me.  When we round the corner, we sprint and take the next right.”

Gray glanced over his shoulder at the pair emerging from a makeshift stable. “Bugger,” he grumbled, “I hate running.”
Darvan grinned at him as they took the corner.  “It’s good for you!”
Gray didn’t get a chance to deliver his retort, as Darvan sprang into a run.  Gray was obliged to lumber after him to keep up.  They rounded the corner and kept going, Gray following when Darvan hooked a left around a shell of a building no one had yet decided to rebuild and repurpose.  Gray followed as the red-clad warrior darted through a gaping doorway and ducked into the shadows.  He struggled to quiet his panting breaths, envying the younger man’s agility and vigor.
A few minutes of tense waiting produced no shouts or footsteps running after them.
“Think we lost them?” Gray whispered.
“One way to find out,” Darvan replied.
Darvan peeked out of the doorway, then crept out into the street, looking both ways.  His posture relaxing, he beckoned to Gray to join him.  “Keep your eyes peeled for trouble.”

“Always,” Gray agreed.
Unfortunately, Broken Bridge was not laid out in as orderly a grid as the city’s original inhabitants may have intended, with rubble blocking some streets and the later construction sprawling out into others.  By the time Gray was confident they were heading back to the Leaping Trout, they had a pair of extra shadows again.
“Our friends are back,” Gray muttered.
Darvan nodded.  “Just keep going.  We’re getting close.”
They were halfway down a deserted alley when another pair of hooded figures emerged in front of them.
“Strangers,” one hissed as they drew pitted short swords from under their cloaks, “Here for the Bronze Man.  You will not take him.  Instead, we’ll take you!”
Darvan drew his swords and dropped into a fighting stance.  “Watch behind us!”
Gray dropped back a step and pivoted, drawing his dagger as he did so.  Their extra shadows were also advancing on them, rusty blades in hand.  “I’ve got them.”
The pair approaching from behind advanced with more confidence than the two Darvan faced, but only because they failed to reckon with Killer.  The squirrel’s scream of pure rage echoed off the crumbling stone walls of the alley, and he launched himself at the face of one of the hooded men as soon as he came close enough.
Gray didn’t have time to keep track of Killer’s melee, as the other hooded figure came in, raising his weapon high and swinging down hard.  Gray deflected the first blow with his dagger.  Not given enough time to draw in sufficient power to strike the man down with lightning, he instead extended his palm to his opponent and launched a ball of raw magical energy at him.  The man staggered back, gasping as the magic missile exploded against his chest.
Gray risked a half-turn to launch another missile at one of Darvan’s opponents.  The man howled as the energy scorched his arm, flinching away enough to give Darvan an opening, the Mayerlinger’s right-hand sword slashing at the man’s midsection, but bouncing off, ringing against armor concealed under the cloak.
Gray’s inattentiveness to his foe cost him as he stabbed at the mage’s lower back.  His ensorcelled cloak turned the blade, but his back still exploded with pain, the impact dropping him to his hands and knees.
His opponent’s next stroke was blocked by one of Darvan’s swords, giving Gray a moment to draw power.  Dropping his dagger, he launched another magic missile at his foe, blasting a hole in the ring mail shirt the man wore.  Darvan, quick to exploit the opening, ran one of his swords through the hole.  The man gasped, gurgled, and slid limply to the ground.
Darvan’s opponents took advantage of his distraction to press their attack, one of the short swords finding the gap between the sleeve of  his scale armor and bracer and slicing deep into the muscle and tendon of his left arm.  The Mayerlinger cried out, one of his swords dropping from his crippled arm.
Gray rose to one knee, launching a magic projectile that impacted one of the pair’s legs, blasting flesh and exposing shinbone.  The man shrieked and toppled, writhing and clutching at his ruined limb – until Darvan plunged his sword in the man’s throat, yanking it free with a spray of blood.
The last man, suddenly finding himself outnumbered, whirled and bolted.  Gray began drawing power to blast him with lightning, but Darvan beat him to the punch, stabbing his sword into the ground, then drawing his dagger and flinging it with one fluid motion.  The blade found its mark in the back of the man’s neck.  He sprawled face-first just short of reaching the street.
Darvan turned back go Gray and offered his good hand.  “You all right?”
Gray took the offered hand and groaned as his friend helped him back to his feet.  “I will be.  The blade didn’t penetrate, but I think I’ll be pissing blood for a week.  You?”
“My arm’s bad,” Darvan grated, “Can you take care of it?”
Gray nodded, sucking air through his teeth at the cut and the blood pouring from it as he rested his hand over the wound.
“Keeper of the Night I call, for future bright or dim,” he chanted, summoning power through the words that had been passed from mage to mage since probably the first man or woman had learned to shape magic to their will, “I your servant need your aid, restore this wounded limb.”
When he removed his hand, Darvan’s arm was still bloody, but the wound was healed, without even a trace it had been there.
The Mayerlinger retrieved his swords.  “What happened to the fourth man?”
The pair looked over to where the fourth man had been just as Killer emerged from his pants leg and bounded up onto his chest, chittering in triumph.
Darvan’s eyes widened at the squirrel sitting atop his prize.  “Is he dead?”
Gray strode over to check the man’s pulse.  “No, he’s alive.”  He looked the man over – he had a nasty bite wound on the bridge of his nose, his face and neck were scratched, his shirt was partially torn open, and he had a swelling lump at the back of his skull.  “Looks like he lost his balance and hit his head on a rock in the ground.”

“Well, grab him and bring him with us,” Darvan suggested, “If these cultists were able to intercept us on the way to the inn, they know where we’re staying.  And if they’re looking for Mayerling elves for their rituals…”
Gray hoisted the unconscious man over his shoulders and began lumbering down the alley, Killer following and complaining about Gray stealing his prisoner.  “Less talk, more move!”
Darvan pelted past him at a dead run.  For once, Gray didn’t mentally berate him for his vigor.

To Be Continued in Chapter Three....

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why I Want To Go: Ush'dui and the Causeway: The Dreaming: Hysteria

"Oh, I get hysterical, hysteria
Oh can you feel it, do you believe it?
It's such a magical mysteria
When you get that feelin', better start believin'
'Cause it's a miracle," -Def Leopard, Hysteria

Janna Oakfellow-Pushee is one of the most talented story tellers in the Realms.  She adds depth and diversity to the eventing experience.  She is able to convey a nuance and creativity to all stories she has brought to the Realms.    And the Dreaming?  Well, it is just the right canvass for her to apply her colorful palate to. 

So if you are going, hold on tight.  It is going to be a bit crazy, perhaps a bit funny, and will definitely be deadly.  Janna and her staff always try to bring people a great event with the resources they have available.  It is in Riley Commons at WPI, which for many has its detractors.  But Janna has been able to throw many successful events there over the years.  Players should expect… well…  Hysteria.  And Time Snarls.  And there’s a door that some are trying to open.  "Mmmmmmmyessssss!"


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Navigating the Spell System by Keith

Change is on the horizon.

Every year at the EHC we muck around with the spell system and really screw up the game for some of our beloved players. This year we really decided to spread the wealth and affect everyone. We took out the alchemy path. We made the magic system 0 cost buy downs, and cut out an entire circle. And I'm not even going to mention the poor necromancers we literally hamstrung.

But, like it or not, in the name of growth and forward progression, these changes are here to stay, at least for this season.

So what can you do? Well the good news is that we’ve given you some new tools to make up for all the changes. I’ve outlined some of the points to ponder below.

The alchemy system boasts a lot of flexibility for a character that lost some power in all the change.
Since it's point based, you have the ability to choose the potions you brew as needed, you can brew them all in advance and plan ahead, or you can mix the two, and brew some potions you know you'll need in advance, and bank some for flexibility.

Some nuances I'd like to point out; because of the point economy, power potions effectively become 1 cost buy downs.

So in order to make a power potion for a 2nd circle spell, you need to spend the point equivalent of a 3rd circle spell.

That's a neat thing to know, and it's all well and good, but realistically you probably don't care. But you probably should, because this is an important nuance. It means that if you had a lower circle spell that you used a lot, or had a lot of learnings of previously, you can gain some of those learnings back by taking alchemy in a higher circle.

For example, Repair Item, a second circle spell, costs 4 alchemy points to create a functional power potion. That means the 8 points you get with a 5th circle slot of alchemy is the equivalent of two power potions worth, which can make up for some lost castings, from the new system.

What’s also interesting, is that the point system can work both ways. Your alchemy points can come from anywhere, so you can effectively use lower circle spells to create a power potion for a higher circle spell. For example you can reset a 5th circle spell with a 4th circle and a 3rd worth of alchemy points. 6 and 4 respectively. Now, honestly I'm not sure why you might want to do that. I know there is someone out there that will want to though, so I'd be remiss to ignore it. Personally, I like having more abilities than having a lot of one powerful ability--- which you might find ironic because this whole article is about a spell system where we took a circle of spells away from our powerful casters. I should note that you cannot reset your 6th circle spell with alchemy, while on the topic of resetting higher circle spells.

Not only that but we integrated all those spells into other circles, so now we have two circles that are really dense with power and choices we just don't want to make. Enchant armor or armored cloak, COP? Combat raise? Ugh how do I decide?!

I'm going to make the bold statement that it's okay if you don’t have all the things. A good balanced system encourages diverse characters, and diverse roles. That means that if you have a hard time choosing between two spells, because you want both, then someone else will also have that struggle. And hopefully they'll pick the other one.

But what about the things? Well I already told you some people got hamstrung. ( Sorry necromancers. ) But what if I told you there were new things? Combinations that were impossible before? Zero cost buy downs did that for us.

Now you might sit there and say “well I could have gotten all the things with 1 cost buy downs because you bastards got rid of an entire circle.” Sure, but now there are combinations between 5th ( formerly 6th) and 6th ( 7th ) circle spells, that could have never happened before. For example; it's now possible to get familiar 3 times and still have a 6th circle spell.

Familiar, while somewhat limited in its choices is also a good spell for eking out some of that power lost from the lost circles. Why? Well you can get more combat raises by taking familiar three times, than you can by taking combat raise. Weird right? Similarly, if you like Find the Path, Familiar is a good route to go. Find the Path, a 4th circle spell, gets one use. Familiar a 5th circle spell, can get it twice, and have a point left over, for a raise dead, or a disrupt.

So what can I tell you about the new spell system? It's flexible, it's diverse, it's powerful, and interesting. People can pick and choose spells, and rather be than being constrained by the idea that “x spells make me a wizard, and that's what I want to be.” We can sit back and say “Who am I? What spells fit my play style? What am I designing?”

Or look at it this way. Before we told you that sorcerers wore red. Healers wore white. And so on. I mean, for years many of us have espoused that the spell system is just a gaggle of mechanics and that you can build whatever you want. But the system was always laid out in a way that lead people down a line, more or less. This year, we get to color outside the lines. You can tell me you want to be a healer, but now you have an entire box of crayons to prove it, and sure, some choices will be obvious, but I think we’ll find some really creative builds once people really start rolling up their sleeves. So get to it.

---Keith “Saegan” Cronyn