Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Filth and Flowers

Some people expressed interest in the AD&D game with the Old Guard I was yammering about last week, so I thought I'd post a little summary of the setting and events of the first session. All art is the work of the wonderfully talented Jamie Keys of Misty Albion, with whom we spent many a night designing awesome gangs.

If you're into this sort of stuff, I have some more gaming anecdotes on my blog. There are others, but I would be a lousy DM if I just gave it all away, now wouldn't I?

Games with Young'uns
Studies in Underage Vampirism (part 1, part 2)

Games with the Old Guard
Short D&D adventure with Russian motiffs
WoD adventure of romantic horror
D&D mini-campaign of republican undead
Fading Suns (part 1, part 2)

Many games, many worlds... still live in a crap house

Uldë is an ancient city of about 500,000 citizens, living in dozens of semi-independent shantytowns spreading across many miles and mixing small farms, markets, houses and crumbling public structures. Wealthier inner neighborhoods have elected magistrates and local militias, while poorer outer neighborhoods are ruled by Sons of the Dragon and Human First gangs. In the center of the city there is a small elf community living in a majestic castle called Ursgrad, or the White Castle.

Draconian refugees started flowing in after their empire was destroyed by civil war. The refugees view mammals as inferior and hate the position of cheap laborers and petty criminals they came to occupy. The younger draconian generation wants to take over the city and use it as a base of operations to start a new campaign against the Dragon Kings in the East.

No one knows who rules the city, to what state or monarch it belongs, or even how their own race is called. Most natives refer to themselves as humans, despite being a mishmash of high elves, half-elves and true humans. There is a small drow minority which legally lives under the city.

People in outer neighborhoods worship Pelor, while people in inner neighborhood worship Corellon Larethian. Both are not very enthusiastic since the sun never shines through the eternal overcast and there aren’t any forests inside the city.

Coexistence. It's beautiful

The PCs are:
Abusaire*, a racist Elf Ranger who hates Draconians
Van, cold-hearted, desensitized Elf Fighter/ Mage
Casmir, a fanatic moral relativist Half-Elf Fighter/ Thief
Gwen**, a flamboyant trickster Half-Elf Mage/ Cleric

* Means “Father of Rangers” in Arabic, sort of.
** Pronounced Gay Van

Rotten Flowers
The PCs return to their hometown of Uldë after ten years of fighting in the Dragon King wars. They have received a letter from Mother Benvolia, the director of the orphanage they all grew in, the Bleeding Heart, saying that the orphanage is in trouble and needs their help as soon as possible.

The “Sun Lizards” crew of the Sons of the Dragon demands protection money from all establishments in the Sunflower neighborhoods and the orphanage is not exempt. Humans First won’t help because Benvolia has several draconian hatchlings in her orphanage. All attempts to contact, or even locate the authorities have failed miserably. The archbishop won’t answer her letters.

The PCs are the orphanage’s only hope.

The situation in the street is dire; people are victimized everywhere. Just walking around, the PCs get into several fights defending people from draconian gangsters, leaving a bloody swath in their path. Retribution always follows, but not against the PCs, who are staying in a nice hotel in a nice neighborhood.

The PCs decide to deal with the problem legally, getting mixed in a day long bureaucratic adventure which takes them from the poverty-stricken Sunflower neighborhood with its gangs and radicals to the affluent and safe Rose neighborhood, with its dedicated militia and eternal flower festival. All attempts to get into Ursgard fail – the guards are very polite, the clerks are sincere, little elf girls hand you flowers and wish you long and prosperous lives, but there’s simply no getting in.

We accept only fabulous criminals...

Feeling challenged, Gwen and Casmir make a 100 gp bet with a Sergeant of the Ursgard garrison. They would prove to him that it’s possible to get into the White Castle. How? By presenting him with a flower from the Stone Garden. The Sergeant agrees to the bet and the duo start scheming.

At the same time, Van and Abusaire ask the Rose Magistrate to help them fight off the gangsters, but the latter says he doesn’t have the authority to act in other neighborhoods, setting of a highly frustrating bureaucratic quest, which ends in bucketfuls of flowers and numerous fashion tips, but no real assistance.

A Flower from the Stone Garden
It is possible to buy a Stone Garden flower in the Rose neighborhood, but the PCs want to get inside Ursgrad on general principle. Their main tools in this quest are a Flying Broom Gwen brought back from the war and Casmir’s Hat of Disguise, which he uses so much that no one, including him, knows how he looks anymore.

Gwen casts invisibility and flies around the castle on his silly little broom. It’s guarded by knights, golems, wizards on griffons and strange magical contraptions. The locals are elves dressed in dreams and fairy silk who do everything very, very, very slowly. He tries to fly inside, but immediately starts shining with fairy fires and retreats. Undaunted, he tries again, dodging the griffon wizards, the animated spikes and the statues in the Stone Garden, picking up a ten feet tall pink tulip, roots and all, and flies away.

According to Casmir’s extensive research, the Stone Garden flowers can only be watered with the tears of those missing a homeland they will never see again. They are beautiful to behold, but make everyone touching them extremely melancholic and homesick. Being a practical sort of half-elf, he holds unto the flower until tears roll down his eyes, missing lands he never visited. He then cheerfully waters the plant with these tears.

Gwen and Casmir are now 100 gp wealthier and are the proud owners of a rare magical flower. However, this has nothing to do with the original adventure whatsoever...

You want me to look out for brooms? I'm not getting paid enough for this shit...

Legal Justice
Van and Abusaire try to convince the local Humans First boss, Jeice, to help them fight the draconians, but he declines, feeling his boys are not ready yet and that the orphanage is not worth the risk. The local Wizard, Bjorn, while willing to give the PCs moral support and even magic potions, is not ready to risk his neck in fighting the street gangs. Talking with the wizard, the PCs discover that Mother Benvolia has some farther reaching schemes than simply protecting her orphanage, but he is not willing to elaborate on them.

Asked about it, she cryptically says she needs three acts to bring back the light of Pelor to the hearts of Man. The PCs don't press her for more information... for some reason.

Lastly, the PCs try approaching their own magistrate, only to find his office occupied by the very same draconian gangsters they were asked to deal with. Instead of getting help, they end up being shook up for some money for wasting the thug’s time.

Frustrated, the PCs massacre some more gangsters trying to kidnap a pair of young women from the street and advise the two to leave the city until things cool down. While at it, they also shoot a hatchling guilty of not running fast enough once the shit hits the fan.

Later that night, the PCs discover that Jeice and most of his gang were killed by Draconian gangsters and their pub was burned to the ground. No longer caring about law and order, the PCs round up Humans First survivors and decide to settle the score D&D style – with fire, blood and magic.

"I will ignore your problems presently."
Street Justice
Joining forces again, the PCs decide to go on all out attack on the Sun Lizards’ HQ. The attack is masterfully planned, but, as the saying goes, no plan survives the first magic missile.

The seemingly harmless elf receptionist turns out to be a draconian in disguise. The large silver bully unexpectedly attacks the PCs and alerts the other gangsters above. The battle becomes even crazier when the brazier of sleep the PCs hoped to use to take out the gangsters summons a fire elemental who attacks everyone on sight. After the battle, it turns out that Van’s plate mail armor +1 is cursed and he can’t stop fighting, forcing his friends to knock him out and discard the otherwise excellent armor.

Two humans and five draconians later, the PCs are victorious, although direly wounded and missing most of their magic items. Also, Van somehow managed to get high by applying mysterious white powder to his wounds. Now who could think that would happen...

Exploration of the house reveals some magic property of the draconians, a lot of ill-gained gold, some miserable humans with their teeth removed, some bloody teeth in a jar, and a magnificent parrot who only knows the words, “fuck you.”

"I'll save you! Just kidding... hand over your money!"

The Thick Plottens
As the PCs tear the house to bits, searching for more loot, they hear someone entering the ground floor. It’s three young drow women from the Ortagan family of the DD crime organization. They came for their toothless sex slaves and won't take no for an answer.

The PCs are nasty bastards, but not as nasty as to hand over the poor wretches to the drow, not even for a hefty bribe. Threatening words turn into magic words and soon half the group is held, while the remaining PCs force the drow are forced to flee, promising to tell their mom. That later phrase makes the group understand their foes were only teenager, and when their mommies come, things are gonna get real nasty.

However, the PCs aren't too concerned, since they are staying in the safe and distant Rose neighborhood and no one knows where they are staying, it's not likely the drow will find them. It's not like the drow are known for their mages and clerics or anything...

Next morning, the PCs wake up to see thick black smoke rising from the Sunflower neighborhood and wonder who paid the price for their bloodletting this time...

Mother of!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Israeli Storyteller Fundraising in Retrospect

As promised, conclusions from my first IndieGoGo. These are purely intuitive and personal. If you’re considering doing your own fundraiser, I strongly recommend reading some more scientific articles as well. Anyhow, there it goes – 9 acute observations from 3 fun months.

The art, coincidentally, is from my next project. Have fun.

All contributions are good, not just money. I’m really glad I encouraged people interested in the project to make any contribution they can, not only monetary donations. In the end of the day, money is a means to an end, not the end. Translated into money, I have received more in art pledges and other forms of help than in dollars and shekels. In fact, this is the main reason why I consider this project a success. Translated into cold currency, I did reach my goal. Why, one artist alone had pledged more than a $1,000 of art!
A picture is worth a gazillion words. Even if what you’re doing is a fiction book, don’t be overly verbose and don’t be skimpy on the art. What immediately shows the difference between a yammerhead and a professional is the art. This is why this post is lavishly illustrated, even though the art has nothing to do with IST. And while at it...

"Master, is it time yet?"
"No, let him finish talking about IST first."
Art by the silent warrior Yan

Don’t be shy, post about your project. A LOT. They say that if the first 500 times didn’t convince a person to contribute, the 501st time won’t either. This isn’t true. People follow and unfollow your social network every day. Posts drown in the stream within minutes. Some people might want to contribute, but don’t have the money handy and need be reminded later on. Speaking of which...

People mostly contribute at the first few days of the month. Promote accordingly.

Be concise. At first I told about my project in excruciating detail and there were hardly any contributions, except from friends and early readers who enjoyed the book. Then I replaced this long-winded essay with a two paragraph summary and folks became much more interested. Don’t be a graphomaniac

Start with handy art. People, in general, are not to be trusted. Don’t assume that artists will live up to their promises and deliver on time. There’s a chance you’ll get your art a month late and it will be of the wrong size and depict something that has absolutely nothing to do with what you'd asked for. All the while, you’re losing precious time as your campaign looks unappealing and fails to attract funders. So, don’t start before you have a heap of art ready.

Post new art often. If you have a decent amount of art, post a new picture every few days. Personally, I didn’t have much art when the project started, so my updates were mostly anecdotal and not very effective, but once art started flowing in, so did the contributions.

Use Kickstarter. I know IGG is awesome and free while KS are a bunch of censoring cunts, but for some reason folks seem to like KS much better, possibly because they only charge you in the end of the project and not immediately. KS is only for Americans, however, so if you’re an alien like me, you’ll need to find an American partner.

Be social. In addition to getting funding and art for my project, I got to meet cool new people who share interests with me. These people helped me spread the word, offered cool ideas and were generally awesome. Thank you awesome people. As the old saying goes, “better 100 friends than 100 rubles.”

Don't forget to have fun...
Art by the undefeated Stav
There, this is what I learned from my first fundraiser. All in all, it was an amazing experience which, in addition to helping me finance my strange book, also brought me in contact with some huge talents and generally very fun people. Definitely very recommended.

My next fundraiser will be RATS! Coming this summer to eat you and everything you love. Be afraid!