Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There came a wanderer #2: Return to Eberron

Donald was able to run me to the airport to meet Keith on Thursday afternoon. Andy joined us later for the evening's roleplaying Keith had promised to run, in Eberron, the world of his own creation, naturally enough.

We dined on Kerala-style 'Bhuna' Lamb (Kerala Ka Bhuna Gosht), Royal Chicken Korma (Shani Murgh Korma), and Red Lentils from the Khyber Pass (Khyber Pass Ki Masoor Dal), a selection typical from curry restaurant orders all across the country. The 3 recipies were all from Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible. The dal is a standard by now, but the Bhuna and the Korma were both new to me. Madhur Jaffrey however, is the 'Queen of Curries', in the way that Delia towers over home cooking in Britain; so I was confident that the recipies would work.

They did; and Keith pronounced himself astonished that he'd eaten lamb and actually liked it. That'll've been the blend of 6 freshly roasted and ground whole spices for you I guess.

Dinner done and the table cleared, Keith repaired to the 'Seat of Power' (AKA my computer chair), which I guard jealously except when someone else is GM'ing. I had invested in a wee bottle of the fine Glenfiddich single malt, with which Keith and I toasted the occasion of his first game in Scotland before we got under way. Even I was taken aback by the whisky's delicious fruity undertones, which were quite unexpected to me.
Keith takes to the 'Seat of Power' as if he belongs there

My previous adventures in Eberron had all taken place in Khorvaire, the main continent detailed in the D&D3 Eberron Campaign Setting (reviewed here on RPGnet for those of my readers who know less about the setting even than yours truly). Those had been enough to give me a liking for the Eberron setting and its unique take on fantasy adventure. So I was looking forward to seeing what the setting's creator would have in store for us, naturally enough.

Andy, me and Keith

It has to be said that Keith was labouring under certain disadvantages when he started his game that Thursday evening (and no, the effects of the whisky wasn't one of them!). He was confronted by a group of players who were:
  • Rusty as a roleplaying crew, not having roleplayed together for more than 2½ years.
  • Still in the process of clearing away the baggage whose accumulation had helped end our last roleplaying run.
  • Mostly unfamiliar with Eberron.
  • Even more unfamiliar with the D&D4 rules we'd be using.
  • And, to top off all that, we were half the number for which Keith's scenario was written.
Breele the changeling (me); Wazzee! the Kobold wizard (Andy); and Breagus the minotaur (Donald)

Unless my memory has completely failed me (and I've a snreaking suspicion that it might've), our adventure didn't take place on Khorvaire; although I can't for the life of me remember which continent Keith pointed to during his quick run through the history of Eberron, and his introduction to the key background elements which'd help us understand the scenario into which we were being dropped. The scenario itself is one that Keith is running for all his hosts during Have Dice, Will Travel. Sworn to avoid spoilers as I am, there is therefore little I can actually say about the course of events themselves.

I can say that good triumphed over evil in a tangled web of plot and counterplot that'd've been fun to be able to investigate further in a longer series of games. I guess I can also add that I liked playing the changeling Breele. She enjoyed all sorts of neat powers. Breele's ability to use her shapeshifting to gain combat advantage in melee was probably my favourite. I had fun inventing different ways to describe this, and I know Keith liked them too, because he gave me healthy schmuck bonuses for my efforts. (Interestingly, HERO is one of Keith's favourite rpg's, and schmuck bonuses to reward player creativity were a feature of Champions - HERO's progenitor - from day one, AFAIK.)

Our heroes' first encounter, about which I must remain tight-lipped, naturally enough (it was nicely spooky though)

Keith was a good GM, strongly oriented towards character, narrative, and performance as opposed to simple system-crunching. Watching Keith in action, and appreciating the way he rewarded my own creative efforts as a player, I was reminded of the fact that I'd been far too stingy with this sort of thing when I was GM'ing WFRP. As a general rule, if a GM wants his players to be the sort of foolhardy heroes who'd appear in a story- as opposed, that is, to being the sort of cautious survivors you'd expect to find in an 'authentic' imaginary world; if a GM wants players so suitably rash, then the GM has to be generous with rewards to the players (be they XP or schmuck bonuses) to reassure, cajole, and empower the players.

And as for D&D4, to which Keith's game introduced me? I have to say that I quite liked it. I know I was certainly helped by the excellent playaids that Keith had put together, but I found the contentious new structure of powers made sense and was simple and fun to use. But then, I've never had that much of an emotional investment in D&D as a system; in fact it was the perceived limitations of archetypal AD&D mechanics- classes, levels, HP and Vancian magic, to name but the best known; it was these limitations which drove me into the arms of HERO back in the 80's.

I may get a chance to find out more about how D&D4 works. The taster Keith gave us was entertaining enough for me to talk to Donald about the possibility of his running a straightforward dungeon bash using the new rules. Donald was certainly interested. I suspect that this might get Donald into the 'Seat of Power' sooner than would his plans for an outlaw campaign using HERO. ;)

- Epic adventure!
- There came a wanderer #1: Well, that was unexpected!
- There came a wanderer #3: Dining out and gaming on!
- There came a wanderer #4: the wind-down and the send-off


Thanks to Donald for all the pictures. :0)


Matt Forbeck said...

Glad to see you help Keith out with his plans for traveling the words via D&D. Very cool, John!

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Hiya Matt. Thanks for passing on the story in the first place. I don't think I'd've picked up on it otherwise, not being a big D&D fan.

And yes, it was cool. ;)