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Posts Tagged ‘Dictionary of Elric’

All four of us in my gaming group are serious, serious gamers, we like the same types of games, and we get along great.  But despite all that, each of us brings very different games to the table.  We all take turns choosing the game and GMing.  Mike is very plugged in to the online indie gaming scene, and brings us the new hotness.  Ryan is on a lifelong quest to discover or build the perfect story-gaming system.  Peter’s tastes run to the crunchy, and he loves superhero games.  And me, well…

When I look at the history of the games that I have nominated and run, there are both expected and unexpected trends:

I’m attracted to settings more than systems.  I know that system is vitally important to the gaming experience, but when I read a new game and go “hell yeah I want to play that,” it’s usually because the fictional content (or “fluff”) has grabbed me.  I find this especially when reading the GUMSHOE games: Trail of Cthulhu, Ashen Stars, Night’s Black Agents, et al.  I don’t even particularly like the GUMSHOE system, but these games have evocative, detailed settings that are ripe for drama and adventure.  Setting-rich games are kind-of a problem with my group, though, which tends to prefer games with a low barrier to entry (i.e. not having a lot of setting material to memorize before the game can begin).  When I run a game, I tend to spend a lot of time developing setting and backstory content, and then trying to figure out how I’ll introduce it all during play (without boring exposition scenes).

But system IS important.  I like systems that aren’t too crunchy; I don’t want to have to keep flipping through the rulebook during the game.  A system should have explicit mechanics for driving the story forward and in unexpected directions.  I want to be surprised, even as the GM.  We end up mixing and matching systems and settings quite a bit.  For example, I ran a game in the Elric! (a.k.a Stormbringer) setting using the Sorcerer and Sword system (with great success).  But paradoxically, reading setting-free system rulebooks (e.g. Fate Core) leaves me cold.  I need some sets and costumes with my rules, even if I’ll never use them.

Sorcery, ghosts and demons.  These are favourite genres of mine that I keep coming back to.  I feel like there’s something about forbidden knowledge and Things That Should Not Be Named that I haven’t successfully invoked at the gaming table yet; but I can’t say exactly what that is.  I’ll keep exploring these genres until I do.

I just finished my turn in the GM’s chair, so my next opportunity to pick the game is probably a year away.  Still, I’m always reading new RPGs and supplements, and of course I want to play just about all of them.  Maybe looking back at my previous selections will help me to narrow down on what I’m really looking for.  Or maybe I’ll decide to try something completely different.

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Hmm.

If this Elric game goes well, maybe for my next turn in the GM’s chair I’ll run an Apocalypse World hack in the same setting.

That would be…

-J

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The second of three character sketches of the player-characters.

Lord Hibbukal of Khanjar’a

Exalt-Surgeon.  Younger brother of Duke Sendric.

Hibbukal is a frighteningly brilliant man who tends to arrogance.  He sees the incestuous decadence that afflicts Melnibonéan society and believes that the empire can only be saved by a near-death experience.  Only an ex-sanguination, perhaps brought on by a barbarian invasion, can wake Melniboné from itd deathbed and inspire the renewal it needs.  He believes that his destiny lies in going abroad, advising some human king and fomenting and aiding an uprising.

History

Born with a voracious intellect, Hibbukal studied medicine and surgery as well as sorcery.  In his twenties, he fell under an extended illness.  His body wasted and many expected that he would die.

His father Duke Arandur had been secretly grooming Hibbukal to be the next Duke, but after two years of illness, shifted his favour to Hibbukal’s brother Sendric.  Meanwhile, Hibbukal came to suspect that he was host to a demonic parasite, but needed supernatural aid to heal himself.  The family summoned a Chaos demon (“it had five arms and a face that was almost all mouth and all teeth – opened up to be almost the whole size of its face, like a predatory fish”), but the demon refused to help one so weak.  Thus spurned, Hibbukal secretly researched demons of Law.  He learned that house Jifar’a was the custodian of a forbidden tome of Law sorcery, The Book Of The Inverted Eye.  He entreated his brother Sendric to steal it for him. (more…)

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Here’s a page that identifies eight noble houses with significant roles in our Dictionary of Elric game.  Thanks to Ry for the layout idea.

(click HERE to download PDF).

Dictionary of Elric Melnibonean Noble Houses

Cheers,

-J

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House Khanjar’a

House Khanjar’a is Imrryr’s top importer of exotic luxuries from the Western Continent. Shazaar is their only territory, but they are expert at delving the Western wilds to acquire slaves, beasts, delicacies, intoxicants and magical herbs. The memorable success of any party is assured if Khanjar’a can be secured to supply it.

Sendric became Duke when his father, Arandur, was declared insane by the family. Arandur remains locked in the tower’s uppermost floors. Mirzomar (Arandur’s brother-in-law) is now the most powerful sorcerer in the family.

Khanjar’a has recently begun importing a new intoxicant, called Totemflower, The Azure Blossom, which allows its users to partake of each other’s immediate sensations. It is favoured by lovers and sadists alike.

Duke Sendric Khanjar’a

(more…)

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Our first session of play was last night and it was – pretty great!

I was a bit more apprehensive than enthusiastic, because I didn’t feel like I had enough bangs prepared, I hadn’t decided yet why Mike’s character’s son had been kidnapped ten years ago and where he was now (re: Mike’s backstory and kicker), and I hadn’t quite figured out the best way to bring the story from a throne-room intrigue to a world-roaming adventure story.

But despite all that, it was a fun session because I have great players :).  Everyone really got into their roles.  I was especially impressed with how well Pete and Ry embraced the “Melnibonean-ness” of their characters, casually discussing execution and dismemberment of family members while seeking the most appropriate way to respond to infidelity and other betrayals! (not gratuitously, but to highlight the contrast with the characters-of-conscience in the story; this juxtaposition will be an ongoing theme in this particular game).  And Mike more-or-less allowed himself to be captured and labelled a spy, because it would be good for the ensuing story! (more…)

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Okay I got the relationship map sorted out — and it’s HUGE.  Right now it’s actually on four different pieces of paper, and I’m not sure that I’m going to bother transcribing it all onto one (poster-sized) sheet; it would probably be too unwieldy anyway.  We’ve got:

  • inter-personal relations (good and bad)
  • inter- noble-house relations (good and bad)
  • several schemes in progress

This is going to be great fun.

Now I’m statting up (stat’ing up?) NPCs, demons and other critters and items.  LOTS of them.  They’re each half a page, to save table space (let me know if you want me to post my character sheet templates).

Then I’ve got to make up some Bangs (which should be easy, given all these ambitious NPCs and their clear motivations!), and detail some locations.

44 hours til game time!

When this is all over, I plan to polish up a bunch of this material and put it into the next revision of the Dictionary of Elric.  But first: the kick-assing’est game of Sorcerer & Sword, ever.

-J

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The planning session went great.  The players came with the seeds of character concepts, and we jammed on each others ideas.  I had also prepared a list of questions that I wanted each player to answer about their character — I’ll post it later, some were from Sorcerer, some were setting-specific — and that spurred more conversation.

I especially loved it when the players proposed things to each other like “hey, can we say that our characters are brothers / I’m in love with your daughter / your uncle just knocked up my wife?”  These guys practically built their own tangled relationship map without any help from me!

Which is also the problem I’m now facing.   (more…)

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Lord Radric of Hekhem’a

He roams the young kingdoms to prove that Melnibonéans are still masters there. With his personal demon and small entourage of heavies, he goes where he will, expecting royal treatment, making outrageous demands, and severely punishing anyone who fails to comply. Leaves a trail of traumatized women and dead men. Twice yearly he returns to Melniboné – ostensibly for his children’s birthdays – to boast of his exploits, his power to subjugate, and his cruelty. 40s, meaty build, black goatee and shoulder-length black hair in oiled curls. His interest in Hekhem’a family affairs is limited.

Radric carries a demonic sword (object demon) named Grayfang, the Wolfblade. The hilt sports a red gem worked into an eye motif surrounded by silver etched to resemble fur. Its abilities include Hold, Boost (Stamina) and Perception (scent). It Desires alpha-male behaviour of its wielder.

(Edited 2011-Feb-21 — to move Radric to House Hekhem’a.  -J.)

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Prince Nuzan of Lormyr

Prince Nuzan takes no interest in affairs of state. His father’s careful style of management doesn’t hold a candle to Nuzan’s current passion, horse racing. In a country where chivalry and etiquette are the norm, he barges about like a Vilmirian pirate-lord with a rash, muttering thinly veiled insults at all but his own fairweather drinking companions. Those who are privy to the size of Nuzan’s growing debts are concerned for the safety of the nation’s treasury.

Lormyr was once the centre of a brief human republic that spanned the Southern continent. Ruling from the river city of Iosaz, plump King Fadan guides Lormyr with a cautious hand; but his sons are far more ambitious, and are anxious to take advantage of Melniboné’s decline.

 

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