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Things Fey

8 May

Fairy Lily

“The Fairies are a silent race,
And pale as lily flowers to see;
I care not for a blanched face,
For wandering in a dreaming place,
So I but banish memory:–
I wish I were with Anna Grace!
Mournfully, sing mournfully!

-from THE FAIRY WELL OF LAGNANAY, FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY (Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888])

Yeats did some wonderful poetry, but he also collected some great fairy tales. There is a gold mine of myths out there for those that want to add a classical mythology to their RPG. It can lend a high fantasy flavor and is also great inspiration for games that are geared towards children, as well.

I sometimes find that RPGs have created their own versions of elves, dwarves, fairies, etc. which is great, and the choice is a fun and good thing, but it is not often that you find their folklore originals in a game. I will be discussing some of these aspects and the potential for integration of the principles gleaned from folklore into a standard D&D game in upcoming posts, soon. Indeed, some of those elements, in various forms, are the basis of much of Fantasy Roleplaying Games already. I have tentatively decided to call it my “Fey Project“.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Poster #9

29 Mar

Visit Middle Earth on Tolkien Reading Day!

25 Mar

Middle Earth Map

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings)

March 25th is Tolkien Reading Day!!!

 

I wish I could visit there today 🙂
Jeff
“Retro”

25th March is Tolkien Reading Day

25 Mar

~25th March is Tolkien Reading Day!

Tolkien Reading Day was set up to encourage people to get together and explore some of Tolkien’s stories at school, university, in reading groups, or as a family; the theme for 2011 is
“Tolkien’s Trees”.

…This year’s theme, “Tolkien’s Trees”, is allied with the “International Year of Forests” and encourages families and library reading groups to enjoy exploring the dark confines of Tolkien’s many forests as well as focussing on individual trees.

Readers might venture into Mirkwood in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; into the Old Forest on the borders of the Shire, and the Golden Wood of Lothlorien, or meet the Ents of Fangorn. Or why not read about and discuss the importance of trees and their meanings in “Leaf By Niggle”, or the ‘Two Trees’ beloved of the Elves in The Silmarillion, where there are more great forests and woods to discover….


I have been reading Tolkien’s works over again recently. Like many, besides perhaps Grimm’s fairytales, Tolkien’s writings were the first fantasy stories I ever read. Last year, over several sessions, I read the entire text of The Hobbit to a friend of mine that had never enjoyed Tolkien before. I think I derived as much pleasure reading it aloud as my friend did in hearing the tale! 🙂

I am currently reading the SIlmarillion, so  here is my choice for Tolkien Reading Day.


 

The Two Trees

The one had leaves of dark green that beneath were as shining silver, and from each of his countless flowers a dew of silver light was ever falling, and the earth beneath was dappled with the shadows of his fluttering leaves. The other bore leaves of a young green like the new-opened beech; their edges were of glittering gold. Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled a golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light.” The elder tree, the silver tree, was named Telperion, while the younger, golden tree was named Laurelin. In seven hours, each tree waxed to its full glory and waned again. Each came to life again an hour before the other, so twice a day in Valinor, a soft light emanated from the trees when both the faint silver and golden lights mingled. The first time Telperion bloomed to full stature, the Valar counted as the first hour of time, naming it the Opening hour. After the first waxing and waning of Telperion and Laurelin, the Days of the Bliss of Valinor began, and also the Count of Time.

(From The Silmarillion)

Tolkien Reading Day

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Have a wonderful Tolkien Reading Day 🙂
-Jeff
“Retro”

Character Personality Traits & Behavioral Quirks

12 Mar

I saw this post on Facebook yesterday from the official Dungeons & Dragons page:

Dungeons & Dragons
knows a fighter who strings the fangs from dragons he’s slain on a necklace.
What kinds of trophies/souvenirs do your characters collect?”

I pondered that question and quickly remembered that when I was 15, I did have one character take trophies of his kills.
He was a stereotypical Dwarf Fighter who gloried in cleaving his foes with an axe; especially ORCS!!! As a low level character I had him line his belt with the heads of the orcs he had personally killed. Of course, he eventually killed too many to keep all of the heads, but I thought it was pretty cool for him to be bold enough to walk around with those intimidating trophies.

This got me thinking about character personality and behavior traits & quirks, etc.

From the earliest days, many PRG systems and homebrews have had characters take these as advantages or disadvantages at the time of character creation. Some point-based ones, like GURPS give you tradeoffs for them.

In one of the first campaigns I played in, one based on the Arduin system, we rolled on what was called a “Special Abilities” chart for our particular class. The chart had some random advantages and also some disadvantages. Here is one example:

My basic philosophy about character traits is that one should have some sort of oddity that could be either a potential weakness or strength, depending upon the circumstances. I would consider such things optional and up to the discretion of the individual Gamemaster to use or not, as they see fit, but they can help players to develop the persona of their character. In some campaigns I have asked a player to come up with both a special ability and a flaw, subject to my approval.

As RPGs  evolved, they have had many iterations of this concept of character traits, with certain character abilities that are enhanced or detracted from.
Here is an example from The Hypertext d20 SRD Character Traits page:

Uncivilized
You relate better to animals than you do to people.

Benefit
You gain a +1 bonus on Handle Animal checks and wild empathy checks.
Drawback
You take a -1 penalty on Bluff checks, Diplomacy checks, and Gather information checks.
Roleplaying Ideas
Characters with this trait are likely to feel awkward in many social situations; that might be expressed as shyness and quiet behavior, or it might be expressed through an overly exuberant need to participate in conversations.

What is interesting here, is that the Trait has both a benefit & a drawback, which is similar to my own thinking about such things.

One note of caution to the Gamemaster is to make sure that they have the final say regarding Traits, Flaws, Special Abilities, etc. in their campaign.
I have seen these work very well in games, but I have seen players try to abuse them. If such Traits are a part of my game, I make sure the Trait chosen/generated has both a potential benefit and deficit in my particular campaign or I will modify it so it does or won’t allow that one altogether. Sometimes I have just asked the player to come up with a Weakness, without a known Benefit. The Weakness may have a benefit later, but that is an opportunity for the Gamemaster and the Player to turn it into one through actual gameplay.

One of the concepts I really hold strongly regarding the Old School Renaissance is that we have the scope to reassess how we would like OUR OWN PARTICULAR game to be run. Character Traits, whether Flaws or Advantages may or may not be one of the things we wish to include – it is up to the Gamemaster to decide. However, using them even on a trial basis may be fun and add flavor to the game. If used judiciously, they could be a great help in developing a character’s persona and perhaps keep Gamers from playing their characters as if they had no flaws or weaknesses whatsoever.

I found an extensive chart of Traits, attributed to A. Wilson, that has in it the same kind of trait that my Dwarven Fighter had beginning of this post:  6. Collects teeth/hair/claws of slain opponents. While it is supposedly for NPCs, I feel it could be used for PCs, also.
Here is the link – have fun!

-Jeff

npctraits.pdf