Initiative Or What? – Archives – Feb/2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Free Your Mind…with FreeMind!

 Greetings, one and all! Sorry for the absence of late; but since I’m not a full time blogger, I have to find time when I can. You’ll be happy to know that the time hasn’t been wasted, though. I’ve been busy writing up game materials for my own campaign. That’s always a good thing, right? RIGHT?

Speaking of which, let’s talk about writing for a moment. More specifically, let’s talk about how one goes about organizing his or her thoughts so that something intelligible, fun, and interesting can be put down upon the page.

Being old, my mind is probably not as sharp as it was in the past; so I occasionally have great ideas that tend to get lost. That, or I’ll sit down in front of a blank page and just stare; trying to get past the block. I’m lousy about taking notes, so while that system may work with some, it simply gives me paper cuts (and the little sticky notes get lost anyway). In addition, one of my biggest problems as a writer is easily managing continuity. It seems I can never remember the name of the old man from scene 24, without having to thumb through endless documents looking for something that should be at my fingertips.

Fortunately, I’ve found a great solution.

A little over a year ago, a friend of mine (who knew I was working on a novel) suggested a piece of software called, “FreeMind”. Essentially, it’s a “mind-mapping” or “idea-mapping” software. With this little program, you can jot down ideas, connect them together, group them, or whatever. Whether you’re working on an adventure, a campaign setting, or even a novel; FreeMind can help you link your thoughts together into something cohesive.

The interface is not exactly intuitive, but there are a wealth of “right-click” options. Start with a project name, and branch out from there. Add icons to specific elements and even draw “clouds” around similar ideas or thoughts. If you follow the link I have at the end of this post, you’ll see how easy FreeMind is to use.

As for myself, I’ve been using the program for over a year now, both for the novel I’m working on, and for writing D&D adventures. Other than its basic functionality (as a mind-map), there are a couple of other pluses working with the program.

First, the program is Java based. Thus, I can take it to a Mac or PC without difficulty. Second, the program is FREE. Free is good, right? Free is the best!

I’ve only found a couple of minuses…

It’s Java based. If your PC (or Mac, I guess) isn’t friendly with Java apps (or you have them disabled, etc.), then you might run into some problems running the software. Also, like I mentioned above, the interface itself isn’t readily intuitive. The web site is very helpful with information to get you started, however.

So…if you’re having trouble organizing your thoughts for that next great campaign or simply want a “look one place” tool for gathering your notes, I recommend FreeMind for your needs. Here’s the link you’ll need.


Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Symbolizing 4E D&D Classes with Runes

 In the process of working on a project to design a new rpg product; I was trying to figure out a system by which each of the classes in 4E could be depicted by a specific symbol. I wanted the symbols to be relatively simple in design (which helps in the production process); but also meaningful, so that the product would make a stronger connection with the buyer.

After tossing the idea around for a bit, I hit upon the perfect solution – runes. For historians, runes are sort of a bridge between ancient pictogram depictions of words; and the full alphabets of ancient and modern languages. For role-players, runes are often mystical symbols full of power and magic. I figured that if I used real runes as symbols, it might make a stronger connection with the rpg buying public. However, now I had to choose the right runes.

Doing some research I discovered that the people of Northern Europe used runic alphabets from the 1st century A.D. up through the Middle Ages. Although several systems of runes exist, I chose a popular one known as the Elder Futhark. In addition to being a basic alphabet for language, the Elder Futhark was also used to represent specific ideas. In a sense, the runes were used as symbols for more than just a sound in the language. Specific runes came to represent certain ideas and concepts. As such, the runes became a divination tool.

Rune stones are still a popular divination tool for many New Age and Pagan belief systems today. A quick jot around the web, will make it apparent that there are just about as many interpretations of the specific runes; as there are actual runes. Fortunately, this fact was actually useful. I could “cherry-pick” the meaning I wanted for a specific rune. As I poured over the various meanings for the different runes, I came to realize that certain runes were a “fit” for different character classes is 4E D&D. Assigning a different rune to each class, I came up with the following list:

Cleric – Ansuz – A revealing message or insight, communication. Signals, inspiration, enthusiasm, speech, true vision, power of words and naming. Blessings, the taking of advice.

Fighter – Algiz – Protection, a shield. The protective urge to shelter oneself or others. Defense, warding off of evil, shield, guardian.

Paladin – Sowelu – Success, goals achieved, honor, victory, health, and success. Wholeness, power, elemental force, sword of flame, cleansing fire.

Ranger – Nauthiz – Resistance leading to strength, innovation, need-fire (self-reliance). Distress, confusion, conflict, and the power of will to overcome them. Endurance, survival, determination.

Rogue – Fehu – Possessions won or earned, earned income, luck. Abundance, Sign of hope and plenty, success and happiness. Energy, foresight, creation/destruction.

Warlock – Hagalaz – Wrath of nature, destructive, uncontrolled forces within the unconscious. Tempering, testing, trial. Controlled crisis, leading to completion, inner harmony.

Warlord – Teiwaz — Honor, justice, leadership and authority. Analysis, rationality. Knowing where one’s true strengths lie. Willingness to self-sacrifice. Victory and success in any competition or in legal matters.

Wizard – Perthro – Uncertain meaning, a secret matter, a mystery, hidden things and occult abilities. Initiation, knowledge of one’s destiny, knowledge of future matters, determining the future or your path.

One of the things I’ve found, is that the spellings of these runes are nearly as varied as the meanings assigned to them. However, I think I’ve found good fits for the product I’m working on. I’ve already assigned runes to the classes that will be appearing in the Player’s Handbook II®, so you can expect to see those in an upcoming post.

Until next time…

Wait. What’s that? You want to know what the product is? Well, I want you to know what the product is too, because I’m excited about it. I think it will be a useful accessory for 4E D&D, and a product that can be expanded to suit additional purposes as well. However, for now, I’m going to keep the velveteen drop cloth draped over the table. I’m just now entering the prototyping phase, and while I love all the readers that stop by, I’d like to protect my idea while I can. I hope you understand. Fear not, though. Once I have a working prototype, I’ll be inviting some of the “heavy hitters” out there on the RPG Network to give it a review.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Symbolizing 4E D&D Classes with Runes, Cont.

 Greetings, fellow gamers! As promised, I wanted to share with you my continued linking between runes and 4E D&D character classes. In my last post, I described how I had come to realize that certain runes could be used to represent each of the character classes in 4E D&D. I detailed a specific rune for each class in the Player’s Handbook®. In this post, I want to follow up with my description of runes for the character classes in the Player’s Handbook II®.

Before I get to those description, I owe my readers an apology. In my enthusiasm for this coming project, I completely forgot to mention the rather significant contribution my business partner is making. My wife, Anna, is helping me design and create this new role-playing product. Anna brings years of jewelry design experience to the table, and without her help; this project would have never gotten off the ground. I should have mentioned her in the first post. Forgive me, one and all.

Crawls out of the doghouse.

Having gotten the core classes described last time, here’s how the list shapes up for the second group to be featured in the Player’s Handbook II:

Avenger – Thurisaz – Reactive force, directed force of destruction and defense, conflict. Instinctual will. Catharsis, purging, cleansing fire.

Barbarian – Ehwaz – Transportation. May represent a horse. Movement and change for the better. Harmony, trust, loyalty. A change is perhaps craved.

Bard – Kenaz – Vision, revelation, knowledge, creativity, inspiration, technical ability. Vital fire of life, harnessed power. Power to create your own reality. Passion.

Druid – Jera – Results of earlier efforts are realized. A time of peace and happiness, fruitful season. Life cycle, cyclical pattern of the universe. Everything changes, in its own time.

Invoker – Eihwaz – Strength, reliability. Defense, protection. The driving force to acquire, providing motivation and a sense of purpose. Indicates that you have set your sights on a reasonable target and can achieve your goals.

Shaman – Raidho – Travel, both in physical terms and those of lifestyle direction. A journey, relocation, evolution, change of place or setting. Seeing a larger perspective. Seeing the right move for you to make and deciding upon it. Personal rhythm, world rhythm, dance of life.

Sorcerer – Laguz — Life energy and organic growth. Imagination and psychic matters. Dreams, fantasies, mysteries, the unknown, the hidden, the deep, the underworld.

Warden – Uruz – Physical strength and speed, untamed potential. A time of great energy. Freedom, energy, action, courage, strength, tenacity, understanding, wisdom.

Once again, I’d like to remind my readers that the spelling of these runes, varies from source to source.

Work on the project continues. Anna and I did materials tests last weekend, and we found out some surprising things about plastics. Prototyping work continues. I hope to be able to make a post regarding the project in a couple of weeks with more details. We’ll have to see how busy our schedules are.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Legends of Thule: The Möbius Pendant

This post is a bit longer than some; but do please enjoy!Only a handful of tomes can still be found that contain information regarding the Möbius Pendant. The few aged sages that know this fact would prefer it stay that way. This artifact was responsible for the destruction of Thule, and destruction of the Gaia. The artifact is thought to have been destroyed; but academics know that a real artifact is rarely destroyed — it just disappears for awhile instead.

If the Möbius Pendant were to be found…

The Möbius Pendant. Long forgotten on the outer planes and left to rot in the howling caves of Pandemonium, this artifact of terrible power was thought to be lost to the multi-verse. Forged from the cold iron found only on Acheron, this simple bent loop would soon become one of the most dangerous artifacts ever created. At the moment of its creation, every Power in the multi-verse wanted it, and every Power in the multi-verse wanted it destroyed. Unlike a number of other artifacts, the Möbius Pendant was neither a device for mass destruction, or a device to give mortals god-like powers. Instead, the Möbius Pendant was created with only one ability—the ability to open a planar gate two miles square. Impressive. Not so much for its ability, but for what that ability could do for the commander of an army. Or the commander of several armies. Needless to say, the Powers of the multi-verse immediately realized that the Möbius Pendant was a threat to their very existence. As if that weren’t enough, the Möbius Pendant was also imbued with an evil intelligence. In the hands of any intelligent being, mortal and immortal alike; the Möbius Pendant tries to convince that being to gather an army and use it on a planar campaign of expansion and destruction.

Realizing that such a device could not be allowed to exist, a great meeting of Proxies took place; Aaismon and Tanar’ri sitting down side by side with Archons and Modrons to discuss the artifact’s fate. The “Pendant Pondering”, as it came to be written by the Guvners of Sigil, made the decision to destroy the entire cube in Acheron where the artifact was currently being used. Various Powers combined their energy and might; and indeed, the cube (along with its some 200,000 inhabitants) was obliterated. The Möbius Pendant, now isolated from the rest of Acheron’s cubes, was gathered up and given to the Lady of Pain, ruler of Sigil. It was determined that she would decide where the Möbius Pendant should be hidden.

Always shrewd and enigmatic, the Lady of Pain set about in her own way to render the Möbius Pendant inert. She arranged for the construction of three bottles in which the essence of the Möbius Pendant would be contained. Each bottle was carved out of the largest and most valuable gemstone the Lady of Pain could acquire. The Ruby Bottle would contain the Pendant’s material form—the twisted loop of Acheron Iron. The Emerald Bottle would contain the Pendant’s spirit—an evil intelligence thought to be alive even before the birth of the Outer Planes. Finally, the Sapphire Bottle would contain the Pendant’s power—the ability to conjure the massive planar gate so feared by the other Powers. Using arcane magics found only in the Elemental Chaos, the Lady of Pain fractured the Pendant and placed one third of its essence into each bottle. Unfortunately, the power of the Pendant was such that even the Gemstone Bottles took on an evil aura and began to exhibit powers of their own. Frustrated by her failed efforts, the Lady of Pain decided to hide the three Gemstone Bottles on the fourth and most dangerous plane of Pandemonium–the hidden warrens of Agathion.

And that would have been the end of it. A thousand years or more went by and the danger of the Möbius Pendant was nearly forgotten. Not that the Powers actually forgot about it; it was more of a case of “out of sight, out of mind”; which is really what the Powers wanted anyway. Some Powers, however, never forget. Deep in the Astral plane, out of sight from the major Powers and isolated from planar politics; the Lich Queen of the Githyanki knew exactly what the Möbius Pendant could do for her and her people. The Lich Queen was finding that although the Astral plane was a safe haven for her people, thousands of years of self-imposed exile to that place was causing her followers to stagnate. The Githyanki’s arch enemies, the Githzerai, had a far more powerful position throughout the Outer planes. Recent attacks by Githyanki raiding parties were failing miserably, and something had to be done. The Githyanki needed a new home plane, and only a massive armed invasion was going to succeed. Knowing that the Möbius Pendant could help the Lich Queen achieve her goal, the Lich Queen began to send out small bands of Githyanki warriors to discreetly travel to dangerous sections of the multi-verse in order to find the Gemstone Bottles described in the ancient writings. Of course, Githzerai spies soon caught on to these Githyanki movements and began to carefully shadow the Githyanki; to see where they would be led. Inevitably, the Githyanki stumbled upon the Gemstone Bottles in Agathion, just as a Githzerai “Rrakkma” force was picking them up. A major battle erupted almost immediately, Githyanki wizards throwing disintegrate spells, while Githzerai priests tried to open up a gate to the Prime Material Plane. Just as the leader of the Githzerai was stepping through the gate with the Gemstone Bottles in hand, a Githyanki disintegrate spell obliterated him. The Gemstone Bottles tumbled free and through the gate, which closed immediately behind them.

The few survivors of that battle made it back to tell their superiors. The Githyanki were flayed alive for their failure to recover the Gemstone Bottles. The Githzerai, although usually closed mouthed about their affairs, let it carefully leak that the Gemstone Bottles had gone missing somewhere onto the Prime Material Plane. Now every peery cutter–planars and primes alike–are looking for the Gemstone Bottles. Of course no one is sure what to do with them, once they find them…

The Gemstone Bottles did indeed make it to the Prime Material Plane. Unfortunately, they all landed in the same location—a backwater, little known world called Gaia. The Ruby Bottle landed near a Church of Enlightened Pleasure, in the Kingdom of Renard. The Emerald Bottle landed in a mine under the city of Spineridge Hold, and the Sapphire Bottle landed on the ruins of a sunken ship called the Esmond Fitzwallis, deep under the waters of Lake Ichigumee.

And that is the origin of the Möbius Pendant. Of course later, the Gemstone Bottles would be combined to once again activate the dangerous artifact. Although it resulted in the Rendering, the Dead Orcs Society managed to disrupt the recombination and crashed the Githyanki invasion force into the planet. This nearly destroyed the continent of Thule; but it did stop the Githyanki invasion force.

And now, I ask for your help. I’ve always had some vague ideas of what the Möbius Pendant should behave like. My challenge to you is to use the 4E rules to design the Möbius Pendant artifact. Give it powers, influences – even draw me a picture of it.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Letting the Role Take Shape

Continuing with my brief introductory series on a special RPG product my wife and I are developing, I wanted to explore rolesIn 4E D&D, there are four specific roles that a balanced party should fill; in order to have the best chance at being successful. A cleverly designed adventure can get past this limitation; but for the most part, you need the following: A Leader, a Defender (occasionally referred to as a “tank”), a Striker (occasionally referred to as “dps”*, and a Controller (occasionally referred to as “crowd control”).

Groups consisting of more than four characters, can double up on any of these roles to enhance their success. There are minor roles as well, such as “Healer” or “Scout”; but these roles aren’t clearly defined by a specific character class.

The sixteen runes I discovered serve well when discussing the classes presented in both the Player’s Handbook® and the Player’s Handbook II®. However, what if we were confronted with a customer that wanted something for his Artificer, or perhaps a Swordmage? We had no runes to designate these or the hundreds of other potential classes we might be asked about.

My solution was to focus on roles. After all, each of the sixteen classes has a specific role. In fact, all classes created for 4E D&D would have to be assigned a role. Is your class an Arcane Defender, or perhaps a Divine Striker? We realized that if we could come up with something that designated a role, we could still allow a customer to find a unique product to designate his unique class.

Since there are only four roles, the choice was simple – use shape. Anna and I decided that shapes would work best to designate roles. The shapes would be left blank (in the case of “generic classes” ) or stamped with a class rune as designated in my earlier posts. Here are the shapes we decided on: Square, Circle, Triangle, and Hexagon.

The shapes had to be simple for ease of production and incorporation into the product. Fortunately, these shapes lend themselves well to association with specific roles.

The Square represents the keep, the shield wall, and the phalanx. The Square is the Defender.

The Circle represents the rally point, the focus, and the spotlight. The Circle is the Leader.

The Triangle represents the blade, directional force, and a line of energy. The Triangle is the Striker.

The Hexagon represents terrain, tactical options, and multiple solutions. The Hexagon is the Controller.

So, at this point in the project, we have specific runes for the sixteen original classes, and shapes to designate a character’s role. What’s next? Well, in a few days I’ll address the question of power. Stay tuned!

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

*dps is short for “damage per second”. This is a term taken from computer rpg games, where your Striker-like characters have a very high damage per second ratio.

Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.


About DeadOrcs

R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.

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