Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lolth vs Arachne

The gods are mean and spiteful entities that show little compassion for the hard work of others. As game masters, we put much into our games and give very little credit to those inspirations. We are the gods of our worlds. The weaver of tales for the amusement of other gods, we transmute the work of others to weave a tapestry to our liking.

Well, that may be a little much, and many of us like to give credit where credit is due, but, in the heat of the story, we often fail to cite the sources of inspiration. This is not a fault; breaking the storyline to explain the history of your story/creature/etc would detract from the game. And remembering to credit everything that happened after 8+ hours of gaming is excessive. Still, I often like to explain my reasonings after the game to those interested.

While sitting about on this lazy Saturday afternoon I came upon the 1985 movie 'The Adventures of Hercules'. Watching the scene where Hercules fights Aracne, the Spider Queen, I thought of Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, and made me think if the two were related in any way. The original story of Arachne was a human weaver so skilled she challenged Athena herself. Although she did not loose the challange, her pride was her downfall and Arachne killed herself when Athena destroyed her work. Athena took pity on Arachne and turned her into a spider.

In this version, and the version in 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys', Aracne/Arachne is the queen of spiders (pictured here). This can hardly be considered the source for Lolth since the adventure 'Descent into the Depths of the Earth' came out in 1978. Even still, Dungeons and Dragons is rooted in mythology and greek is not the only one around. Africans have a trickster that is a spider by the name of Anansi, the aztecs have Teotihuacan, the spider woman, and Peru has a spider god in its mythology (I tried to find the name, but it eluded me).

My final question would be, if the two would fight who would win? I would have to say that Arachne would be an elder god, around since the times of the Greeks, but her powers are weak and her followers are few, if any. The upstart Lolth is new, not even a hundred years old, but her following is vastly greater due to gamers around the world. This fuels her power and presents her as a threat to Arachne. If it were put into my world, Lolth would be defeated in a climatic battle with Arachne, who used her guile and wisdom to defeat the young upstart and take back her rightful place among the gods and renewing her followers from the ranks of the drow, but that's just me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Moon Festival

Wishing everyone a most joyful thanksgiving, I come to think of similar festivals about giving thanks to life's bounty. The most prolific is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Lantern Festival. Harvest Festivals have been around since pagan times and is appropriate for most fantasy games. I recall a short adventure in the Polyhedron magazine where the characters are hired as 'turkey herders' to help get the turkeys to sale. Combine this with an autumn festival and you have a Thanksgiving inspired theme. How do you portray festivals in your games?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Adventure on the Cheap

Today was a good day for bargain game hunting. While I am not an advocate for the new Dungeons and Dragons, I do enjoy reading adventures, good and otherwise, for inspiration. I am even willing to pay if the price is reasonable.

While visiting the local used book store, Half-Price Books, I came across two 4th Edition adventures still in the shrink wrap. They retail for $24.95 each, but they were $12.48. To make this an exceptional find, I had a 50% off coupon, it was only good for one mind you, making the adventure $6.24. This is the price I used to pay for adventures back in the 80's and the nostalgia compelled me to purchase the books.

The two 'modules' I found were "Death's Reach" and "Kingdom of the Ghouls", two epic level adventures that are part of a trilogy that finish off the shadowfell series of the new edition. I am not one for sweeping epic story lines; I find the meager efforts of would be heroes trying to scratch out a name for themselves more interesting, but I digress.

The adventure come in a folder format with two adventure booklets and a map. I have not yet read through them but a quick look over does not appear to win my favor of the series. None the less, I look forward to reading them and if nothing else, I can usually use the map in one of my custom adventures.

If you have any opinions of these two adventures, please feel free to share them. Your travels may vary, please take what you like and leave the rest for the next adventurer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Hazards of Overland Travel

Some friends took a trip to Big Bend National Park last weekend to hike around what is known as the "outer loop", a 30 mile trail in the center of the park. Well on day two, my friend became a heat casualty and the trio were running seriously low on water. He had to be left behind while the other two continued the trek throughout the night to get aid. They were able to find the emergency stores of water and get back to him the next morning. You can read his account here:

San Antonio Lament

While this was a harrowing experience for my friend, little does this type of danger ever present itself in a fantasy game. Characters travel across continents, who would be lucky to see a town every two weeks. Sure, they are closer to the land than we may be today, but they are also not as privy to the information level we have. Would a farm boy raised in a cold northern climate know how to survive in a desert? Granting the character is not a ranger with a blanket skill to cover all terrains. Would the Ranger have enough charisma to convince some one they are walking too far, or drinking too much water?

I have tried to play scenarios where characters are not 'super' heroes that can march straight from one magic enriched dungeon to another without getting lost. I have seen the frustration on players face when the 'ranger' gets turned around and double over their path and food stores become low, hunting isn't as easy as 'We shoot a deer and the feast, Huzzah!!!!', and penalties for fatigue and exhaustion set in. The few times I have tried this, I have been rewarded with the frustrations of my players who none too subtly point out that I was picking on the players and not being fair.

I recall the first adventure for the game 'Star Frontiers' where the characters crash land in the middle of a desert on an alien world. Included were an advance set of water consumption rules for players to survive the harsh climate. Take your salt pills, walk at night, find shade and rest during the day. It was a lot for our eighth grade minds to remember. I recall impressing everyone with contraption for collecting water: Dig a hole, place a can in the center, cover it with your poncho (anything plastic will work), and put a small rock in the center so that it slightly dips over the can.

The idea is that through out the night when it cools, the little water that is in the air, trapped in the whole will condense on the plastic and trickle down towards the center where it will drip into the can. Will it work? I have no idea, I've never had the need to try it. I saw it on some wildlife show and it has always stuck with me. It was a good feeling to 'save' the party and perhaps that is why I like to use those situations. Unfortunately, I've never found someone who liked the scenario so I have allowed players to by X weeks of rations and successfully hunt for the rest.

Having known both hot and cold weather causalities and seen first hand the effects of heat exhaustion, I find that characters, especially green would-be heroes, would be prone to become a victim of their environment. I am curious if anyone else has been able to use realistic scenarios in the realms of fantasy and fiction. Did they rise to the task and save the party? Were you forced to kill a player? Did you players enjoy the scenario?