Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Draft Players' handout

My latest effort for the Athanor campaign is to work on a brief handout for players to discuss the campaign, the rules, and the expectations of the game in play. Here it is to bore you all.

Athanor Players' Handout (Draft)

Savage Swords of Athanor is a fantasy role-playing game that takes place on a dying alien world where technology has largely been forgotten, magic is real, and dinosaurs roam the planet. You are one of the privileged few to survive in one of the crumbling cities that survive, but for some reason, you are called to a life of adventure and danger.
The game will be a mix of swashbuckling action, horror, and weird fantasy. You may duel for honor, be caught up in romantic or political intrigues, or face unspeakable horrors from the ancient past. Science fiction and fantasy elements can be found side by side here -- you may find arcane tomes teaching you how to summon and bind powerful extra-planar spirits alongside ray guns; you may fight skeletons one day and robots the next. Death can come easily, as can glory as you claw your way up from the streets.

9 Things You Need To Know
1) Morality is grey, and intrigues common. Churches are corrupt, assassination and slavery are legal, and money can buy you anything. Don’t trust the authorities
2) The wilderness is a dangerous place. Plants are mostly lichen and fungi, most animals are dinosaurs or insects, and the water is scarce and valuable.
3) Ruins of the Ancient tend to hold items of great power, but also are very dangerous. Signs of the Ancients should be seen as a reason for caution.
4) Many monsters are unique and deadly, but they may have particular weaknesses to exploit.
5) Humans have very distinct skin coloration. Zamorans are red-skinned with black hair, Alemanians have blue skin, white hair and pale eyes, Dumans have black skin and red hair, Khitai have yellow skin and black hair, Mal-akkans have brown skin with green eyes and hair, Throon have ochre skin and brown hair and eyes, and the Ghuls have transparent flesh, no hair, and red eyes.
6) You will be starting play in Zamora, so most likely you will be a Zamoran. If not, remember that there is a lot of xenophobia in the world, and that Throon and Ghuls in particular will be seen as sub-human barbarians.
7) Zamorans take honor very seriously. Duels and vendettas occur over minor slights.
8) Zamoran nobles often wear masks as part of the social norms of their society. So do criminals, but with different intent.
9) Bearing these weapons is legal for any free person or licensed mercenary: swords, walking sticks, daggers, pistols, and quarterstaves. Wearing armor without a mercenary or bodyguard license is a criminal act of minor sedition. Throon and Ghul may only bear weapons or armor if they are licensed, which would be very odd.

Making a Character in 6 Easy Steps
1) Roll 3d6 six times to generate your character's Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Note any bonuses and penalties for each.
2) Choose a character class from Fighter (relies on weapons and skills), Magic-user (relies primarily on magic) or Rogue (a mix of the two). If you are a magic-user, choose three first-level spells for your spell book.
3) Determine your background skill(s).
4) Roll for your hit points. For first level only, roll two dice and choose the higher one.
5) Roll 3d6 again. Multiply by 10 to figure out the number of gold pieces you start with, and use those to buy some equipment.
6) Note your armor class and saving throw on your character sheet with all the other stuff you just figured out.

Playing the Game
Don't fall into the trap of thinking about your actions by starting with the rules. Describe what you want to do, and I will set a chance of success. This may be negotiable based on other factors you may try to introduce into my decision-making process. My goal is not to be authoritarian, but fair.

The Social Contract
Any game is essentially a social event. And any social group remains its cohesion by developing some shared understandings about behavior and etiquette. Though our social contract will evolve over time, here are some things I want to put on the table right now:

Don’t be an ass
Consider this rule number one for gaming together and, for that matter, for civil life. Respect each other, treat each other well and honestly, and don’t act as if you are the only one who matters in the room. Do that, and the rest should be a piece of cake.

Let the dice fall where they may
I see plot as a thing that evolves in the random events at the table. Surprising things may happen in the middle of a game, and I think that’s a good thing, even if it’s a lucky shot that ends a villain’s life anticlimactically or results in a total party kill.

Open play
I will set some things in motion and bait some plot hooks, but you as a player have to be the one to do something, following your motivations and pursuing goals and interests. Adventure ain’t falling into your lap.

Real life is more important than the game. If you can't make it, it’s no big deal. However, common courtesy (and rule number 1) means that you should at least let the referee know you aren't coming. If you aren't at the table, I will generally ignore your character, but sometimes, you will have to deal with someone else running your character.

Food, snacks, and making yourself at home
Not only is it okay to bring your own food and drink, it's encouraged. Sharing is not required, but encouraged. What are not encouraged are drunkenness, smoking, or recreationals. Also, please help me by cleaning up after yourself. Toss out your fast food bags, recycle your bottles, clean up your spills, etc. No need to break out the vacuum, just be a mensch.

If we are playing at my house, we will be gaming with a dog around. A small one, mind you, but a dog nonetheless. If this bothers you due to allergies, phobias, or because you are made of rawhide and liver, we will need to talk.

Table talk and other distractions
Since gaming is a group activity, I want people to be part of the group dynamic. I may ask you to either get on task or take a break if chit-chat, texting, email, phone calls, web browsing, TV watching, or portable game systems become a distraction at the table. That said, if we are getting uncontrollably off-course as a group, it may be time to take five and declare a break.

Have fun
My expectation is that this game is going to be fun for all. I'll kill some of your characters, heap suffering on them, and often make your characters' lives hell. This is part of what I think is fun in a role-playing game. If you aren't having fun for any reason, we need to talk about it. There's no need for drama or resentment. If you think I'm picking on you, or if someone is making inconsiderate remarks, or the game is getting dull or uncomfortable, we need to talk, maybe even as a group.

Generally, I would prefer such discussions not occur in the middle of the action, so that both the game and the conversation get full attention when appropriate, but sometimes things just need to be talked about when the happen. The only thing I expect in such conversations are civility, and a willingness to accept the process of group consensus, including knowing when consensus just won't happen, and that compromises will usually need to be made.