We’ll talk about where I’ve been later. First, I want to celebrate! I now officially have a published work. Elven Fire for the Beginner GM is finished and published, through the wonderful folks at CreateSpace.com. It took several re-uploads for small corrections, but it’s done and available on CreateSpace and Amazon.
Last summer, George F. Rice published the Elven Fire manual, introducing his family’s 20-year project to the world.
Elven Fire is a new RPG tabletop game, like many others available on the market, but with some very unique aspects such as the Damage Class table that allows a player to use any kind of die in existence (or that can be conceived) to play the game. In addition, it is more “family friendly” than many in the genre, while still maintaining the classic, high fantasy style that has made these types of games famous.
Elven Fire for the Beginner GM is not an alternate manual. Instead, it is a guide for inexperienced GMs of Elven Fire (or if you’ve never even heard of RPG games before!). ‘The Beginner GM’ includes an introduction to the special challenges of being a GM (in addition to being a player) and then walks the reader through three ‘arcs’ (storylines) of labyrinths. Each labyrinth is five rooms, which is a several-hours night of gameplay. Each labyrinth includes step-by-step instructions for the GM, specific battle statistics for every creature or opponent, and occasional tips and tricks for the GM.
You’ll still need the manual to make your characters, and you’ll want the manual for all of the other great information there. This is by no means a replacement for the manual. However, playing a starting group through all three arcs of The Beginner GM will bring that starter, no-nothing group of rag-tag adventurers all the way to the threshold of the Intermediate level.
The most exciting part, however, is that my name’s on the cover!! My author’s copies will arrive this week, so I still have some exciting celebrating to do, but I wanted to go ahead and write up the blog post to announce it. I would also like to mention that I wrote this work during last November, while leading several middle schoolers through NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers’ Program and I would certainly like to thank the Office of Letters and Light for all the hard work they do to make that program happen. (Not to mention the Winner’s Codes they give out for those who make it!)
This post is going up a day late because, well, life is just like that.
I had 3366 words at the end of last week, and I was excited about the forward progress. Then the weekend came and I had time to really sit down and talk through the project. I realized that i had made a mistake in my planning. Fixing it meant that I had to toss about 300 words of the labyrinth I had begun. (I saved it for later.) 300 words isn’t much, but that meant my word count was going backwards! Plus, I no longer had that planned labyrinth. I had to come up with something new. It was just a setback, not an ending, and I am pushing forward and will be successful.
My students, on the other hand… nearly knocked me over with their word counts! They each have a goal of 2,000 words. Most of them came back after the first week with quite respectable word counts. Some, however, really surprised me. I have two that were within 200 words of 2k, and several that passed the 50% mark! This may not be high word counts for the WriMos that are used to thousands a day, but for a class of Middle School students that may not have chosen the class and had no idea it included a project like this, these are great numbers. The best part is that when I asked if they were almost done with the story itself, I got answers like “No way, I’m still early in the Rising Action.” and “I just hit the Inciting Incident!”
I won’t say it’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” but for me it comes pretty close. I get Halloween, when I can wear costumes without people laughing and pointing (except in a good way), and then stepping on the heels of it starts NaNoWriMo! It’s non-stop fun! (Yes, that’s me painting my daughter’s eyes black for her batgirl mask.)
Like last year, my classes are participating in NaNoWriMo, and I’ll be giving updates on them throughout the month. This time, I only have two classes of creative writing students, so they are going to target one total anthology.
This past summer, my family published the game manual for a table-top rpg that they’ve been designing and playing for about two decades called Elven Fire. (This is still on topic, trust me.) Labyrinths for the game, however, are always in constant demand. I’ve been writing labyrinths for the past year, both for family games, and for my school’s after school program. So I decided to use NaNoWriMo to write a set of labyrinths that I can then put out there for other people to use. The creator of the game is also using NaNoWriMo to write a book of labyrinths, so mine will be targeted for the GM-in-training (Game Master), so to speak.
tLike most things, This is more complicated than it sounds. I have to figure out what information inexperienced GMs need, and how to divide the complexities of the game between GM levels. Well, much like governments sometimes, I will drive ahead determinedly, despite being dreadfully uncertain of exactly where I am going!
It was late afternoon, and the tavern held only the usual crowd. There were only three logs in the fire, enough to keep it going, but not the roaring blaze they would keep in the evenings. The curtains were open, letting in the gentle spring breeze. The barmaid, Corinna, was clearing the dishes from the adventurers’ table. They were in each week, rejoicing and nursing wounds from their weekend excursions into the old goblin runs and such. They were a pleasant group, if a bit loud.
The batling, Shadowflight, was the quiet leader of the group. Then there was Desdra, a pixie that occasionally wasn’t. Romba, the loud-mouthed, boastful human had his feet on the table, as usual. Liveria, the lizard-centaur crossbreed, was leaning in through the window.
The door opened to a welcome visitor. The broad-brimmed, high-peaked hat and dark leather cloak of the traveler were barely hung on the pegs at the door before he was sitting at the table by the fire with a mug of ale in his hand.
“News you wouldn’t receive, stories you’ll barely believe! Ten silvers a tale, a song for some ale, I promise I’ll never deceive!” His trademark limerick wasn’t really necessary, as everyone knew his business, and everyone wanted his trade. The normally quiet afternoon hours were suddenly busy and crowded. The entire town was eager for news and entertainment. The old minstrel was only too happy to provide, one mug at a time.
“I ought to charge double for this tasty bit,” he laughed and took another long swig of his ale. The crowd pushed forward, silvers clattering at his feet. He laughed and set his mug on the table beside him. “Last time I was here, I told you about some unrest in Tontves. There was a dark elf mage taking more than his fair share…”
The dark elf called himself Magewind and no creature in their right mind said no to him. Those that did say no, it was usually followed with ‘please, don’t hurt me.’ He took anything he wanted, and he wanted anything worth having. If an archivist in a library discovered an old spellbook, Magewind would be there to check it out, permanently. If an armorer crafted a special weapon or shield, it would quickly find its way into Magewind’s hands. The most beautiful castle in the realm was renamed Windgate and added to his holdings. Enchanted artifacts, unusual potions, gold, jewels, beasts, women, all were his if he desired them. Yes, there were those that tried to stand in his way. But he had his way, and they stand no more.
Finally, a group of men met quietly in the middle of the night, hoping to escape his notice. One of them had the ability of Vision, and he shrouded the room from sight. Another knew the acts of Creation, and he weaved Shadow throughout the chamber, such that not even the men who met could say who had spoken which ideas. Some had special affinity with the creatures of nature, and set a guard around them on land and in air. Some with a knack for Locks and some with a skill for Creating walls together secured even the entrances by which they came. One with an aptitude for Stealth crept around and watched for suspicious signs. Finally, a tall man with a long, frosty white beard waved his arms in the air and around the house wailed an Ice Storm that would slow any who approached, as well as cover any sound that escaped the other enchantments. Working together, they secured their meeting from detection and dubbed themselves the Wizard Defenders.
All the long night, that ice storm raged around the shadowed house while they debated methods by which they might defeat the dark elf mage. Before the dawn woke, the ice storm calmed, the shadow faded, and the house stood empty. Its occupants had left by way of Teleportation, Beacons, Stealth, Speed, Insubstantiality, and Flight.
Over the next week, the Wizard Defenders searched out various reputed heroes. Some found that the reputation was the hero’s strongest ability. Some found little more than broken skeletons where heroes used to be. The brilliant plan that had so secretively been conceived looked as though it would come to naught.
Then, one of the talented men found him: A warrior who wielded an electrified broadsword with a green jewel set in the hilt. The hero, going by the name Shandar, was spirited to the shadow house. The following night, the Wizard Defenders brought Shandar to Windgate.
Illusion was useless against Magewind; he knew the true form of anyone in his sight. A moving ball of shadow would only gather his attention instead of avoid it. Regardless of the objections, Shandar, a man of honor, declared he would not enter the man’s home (stolen though it may have been) in a deceptive manner. Shandar, to the Defenders’ dismay, pounded the gate and demanded audience with the mage.
The golem guards, confused by this unusual request, allowed him through. Magewind, intrigued by the hero’s evident foolishness or bravery, met him openly in his center court to find out which it was. Never one to underestimate his opponent, Magewind had done his research.
“You are Shandar, an adventurer who earns his meals with your excellent broadsword. You are honorable, because your parents were not. You are foolish, because you demand entrance to my home for an audience with me. You are a valiant and worthy adventurer, but you are no match for me. Why do you come here?”
“I came here to stop your evil works, and break the stranglehold you have on this kingdom. You may know my history, and even of some of my weapons, but you do not know everything about me, nor can you see the future that exists without you.”
This angered the mage, and he threw a fireball at the hero. Shandar didn’t even flinch. The fireball engulfed him and burned fiercely before flickering out, leaving Shandar standing unharmed. He had an Amulet of protection. Magewind snarled and a held up one hand. Three balls of ice, each bigger than his fist formed in midair, circling his hand. He figured if Shandar’s world wouldn’t end in fire, it would end in ice. The iceballs flew at Shandar. One struck his shield; one struck his armor; the last hit him in the head. As they struck, however, instead of iceballs, they became snowballs, and Shandar shook off the attack easily. With snowflakes in his hair, he stepped forward and drew his sword.
Magewind realized this hero would not be as easy to dispatch as he had thought. He pulled the hood of his cloak over his head and seemed to blur, making it hard to tell exactly where he was standing. Magewind made a blurred motion and suddenly a dragon stood behind Shandar.
Shandar spun and attacked the dragon. Dragons, though formidable, hold fewer tricks for such an experienced adventurer. The dragon did not stand against Shandar long. Magewind, however, had not stood idle while they fought. Shandar turned, sword at the ready, and a glass bottle soared from one corner of the room and shattered against his chest. The acrid liquid inside spread out on his armor and began to smoke and sizzle. His armor wouldn’t stand up against the acid too long. He pulled a dirk from his belt and threw it, targeting the section of wall that was less clearly defined than the rest. His aim was true, and he heard Magewind cry out in pain and fury. He charged the sound, blood welling out from midair, sword raised high.
The dirk, though painful, had not actually done that much damage. Magewind brought his palm to his lips and blew a gray dust into the air. The dust swept toward Shandar and caught him in the face. He stumbled, and stopped. His head bowed, shoulders slumped, and, with acid eating away his armor, Shandar lightly began to snore.
Magewind threw back the hood of his Cloak, and boldly walked up to the hero. He snatched the jeweled sword from his slack hand with a haughty laugh, and pulled a dagger from Shandar’s belt. He dipped it into a vial of deadly poison and took fine, slow pleasure in slitting the warrior’s unprotected throat.
As Magewind’s laughter and Shandar’s dying gurgles filled the air, the Wizard Defenders stepped into view. They had snuck in while Magewind was distracted with the hero, and now he was distracted completely, absorbed in the murder of an honorable man.
They raised their arms, readied their Rods, turned their Rings, whispered their incantations, and as one launched their attack on Magewind. Light, darkness, fire, ice, and a myriad of other forces lanced across the room toward Magewind as he let the hero fall to the stone floor. Despite the force of their attack, he did not so easily fall. Some missives rebounded back on their caster, often plastering their bodies to the wall. Other attacks he deflected, or took minor damage from. Even so, it was powerful enough to bring him to his knees, from which he launched a counter attack, just as powerful as the rest. Several minutes of heated attacks and returns followed, ending in a deafening explosion of power that could be heard from far outside the walls of Windgate.
The roof of the castle was merely embers, floating on the winds. The walls were scorched, iced, broken, and crumbling. The stone floors were cracked and discolored. Of the dozen or more member of the Wizard Defenders, three remain.
One is now blind, with his tongue in a permanent knot, making serious spellcasting impossibly dangerous, if possible at all. He stumbled his way back to the village, and reported the garbled tale.
Another is a tree, rooted in the center of the cavity of destruction that is left of the dark elf’s fortress. Through the veins and pulp of this tree runs neither blood nor sap, but a lethal poison. His family and friends attempt to guard the tree from those who would steal his bloodsap to use on weapons, one of the deadliest poisons known.
The last of the Wizard Defenders is little more than legend. Supposedly, a misty, vaporous cloud floats seemingly randomly along the river that flows near the site of the battle. Legend says that if you can find the vapor, it will communicate with you, and can heal grave injuries or grant wishes. Few can say that they have stood within the Magician’s Mist, but many claim to know those who have.
“But what of Magewind?” whispered the little, wide-eyed girl in front of the fire in the tavern. The story was long in telling, and darkness has fallen, yet no one had moved.
“Ah, Magewind. The place where he made his stand, where the body of the hero had fallen, was little more than scorched earth when all was said and done. The hero’s corroded armor remained, but nothing else. The kingdom has celebrated his downfall, but there are those that say he is not dead, but only gone, and will one day return for his vengeance.”
The old storyteller sat back and picked up his mug of ale.
Corinna wrapped her shawl around her. Despite the crowd that night, most of the tips had gone to the news-bringer. Not that he’d helped clear the tables or bring the food, she’d noticed. With all of the extra work from the crowd, she’d hardly heard the story at all. She locked the door and headed for home.
In a clearing near the edge of town, an elf lay unconscious in the grass, a broadsword in his hand. A scream brought life to his eyes. He opened them slowly, looking confused. A second scream brought him quickly to his feet. He moved quickly toward the sound as a cry for help echoed through the woods. Breaking through some shrubbery onto a dark road, he found a barmaid being roughly handled by a couple of goblins. He threw himself on the first, driving the blade of the heavy broadsword into its chest. He jumped up to confront the second goblin, and the act of pulling the sword from the first one parried the second goblin’s strike. They circled, and the goblin leaped forward, weapon swinging. The elf’s shoulder stung as it took a glancing blow, but the broadsword scored true in a return thrust, killing the second goblin.
“Oh, thank you! I don’t know what I’d have done if you hadn’t showed up!” The girl threw herself on him in a fit of gratitude. “My name is Corinna. Who are you?”
“I am-“ he stopped, startled, for no name rose to his lips. He had no idea what his name was, or where he’d come from, or how he’d gotten here. He looked down at the broadsword in his hand. A crackle of energy whispered up the blade and across the green jewel in the hilt. Strange, bright blue letters etched across the stone. “Cache,” he read in a whisper.
“Well, it is very nice to meet you, Cache. Let me show you into town. I’m a barmaid in the tavern there, if you need a room for the night.”
He followed her, and accepted her kindness in silence, for he had not a penny on him. She promised to introduce him to other heroes in the morning, who could help him find work.
PART 2 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Last week I detailed the creation and exploitation of a supposedly challenging labyrinth for the in-development game Elven Fire. When we last saw our band of dragon-marauders, they had just finished robbing cradles and interrupting battling practice. Those poor, young dragons.
Time for round two! This time, welcoming a suggestion to let an experienced GM test out the written labyrinth, I handed the power over to the old batling (who had designed most of the game, anyway). I happily took my place in the marching order as one of the heroes.
The next challenge was the Food storage area, where the dragons kept their live snacks. The contents of the room included three separate pens of creatures: lions, elephants, and bears (oh my!) and two attendants, armed with something like a pitchfork and a large axe. Written into the plan was the idea that if the attendants saw the battle going south, they would unlock the nearest paddock and give the heroes more to deal with. It was a fun plan in theory. With the new aforementioned “recruits” added to our already large group of characters, there wasn’t enough space in the room to fit everything as planned, so the new GM had to condense all those animals to one paddock. (We just assumed the various carnivores were all friends.) Sure enough, it only took the first round before the attendants decided they were outclassed and lifted the lock on the cage door. Aha, here comes the stampede of wild beasts! No, one of the attacking party stepped into the doorway, blocking any stampede and only having to attack and defend against the single animal in the doorway. The other characters happen to notice that the paddock is actually a low wall (otherwise how could they see the animals inside?) and the team lines up along the wall for potshots at the corralled animals. Might as well have put blindfolds on the poor creatures and offered them cigarettes. I suppose they did get one last meal, though. My son dropped a giant imaginary snake (illusion) on top of them, and they did manage to at least kill that as they were being slaughtered like fish in a barrel. Anyone need any healing? Yeah right, they made steaks out of the lions and moved on.
They chose to go to the Dragon Baths next. It was set up as a kind of Roman Bath for dragons, complete with priestesses to serve them as they enjoyed the hot spring rising from the Water Dungeons far below (into which no one had yet unsuspectingly fallen). There was also a water drain (another opportunity to throw someone into the Water Dungeons) and the two priestesses had mental powers. The mental powers kind of fizzled, and the 9-hex dragon of 70 strength (our players run about 10-20 strength on average) got turned into a dragonskin handbag with a couple of super-lucky, massively powerful rolls of the dice. (If I recall correctly, the second hit on the dragon did more damage than the dragon had strength to start with!) But hey, it was a pretty room!
Finally, we come to the Dragon Cella, the centerpiece of the Temple of the Dragons. Remember pictures of ancient Greek temples, where there was a statue of the god standing 50 feet tall and looking ready to step on you? This is that place. Other than the big dragon statue, there was only a girl in an orange tunic chained to the feet of the statue. This statue, however, was special. Not only could it turn into a live dragon (did anyone not see that one coming?), but this dragon, being the special, magical dragon that it is, could alter its type in a single turn. Most dragons in this game are one type or another and cannot change what type they are. Red dragons breathe fire, blue dragons breathe ice, brown dragons spit boulders, and other dragons do things even more insidious like spitting acid or lightning bolts, or breathing ammonia gas or shadows. This one can be whichever it wants, given a turn to change. Since the dragon doesn’t wake up until the kid is freed, the party stood around the kid and planned first. Then, it all happened pretty fast. Snatch the kid, throw her on the lizard-taur’s flying carpet (the “little” one) and send her zooming down the hall to be protected by some of the crew that wouldn’t fit in the Cella, namely the young dragons and Ringwart the goblin slave (We’ve started calling him Target, after his ability to get hit against the odds). Then, everyone else takes on the Statue Dragon. These guys do a lot of fire power, and they did enough the first round to make the dragon hesitate. You don’t hesitate in this game, it doesn’t go well for you. So, in like two turns, there’s dragon-rock pieces strewn around the temple floor and the principal warriors are heading for the dragon treasury at the back of the Cella. They open the treasure chests, grab the booty, and head back down to the nursery for “free” dragon eggs.
At this point I, the writer of this abysmal failure of a challenge, have pretty much given up hope of anything challenging happening. So I missed the conversation where the horse-lizard argued that half the eggs had hatched and been carried off away from the nursery. So, instead of a dozen hatched young dragons and two golems to fight, all we found were the two clay dolls and some expensive eggs. You know, I never did get my share of those dragon egg sales!
Despite my feelings of failure, they all claim to have had a very good time, and come away with good memories (And some extra fire-power and treasure!). Back to the drawing board.