Return of the Nerdi

Sigh. Bad, bad, bad me. Here I was promising greatness, and four posts later (and let’s face it, two of those don’t count) it seems like I’ve given up and legally changed my name to Hiatus. So let’s try this again, because there is obviously no better time to revive a failing blog just before the Christmas holidays kick in…

Actually, on the subject of Christmas…

Presents & Perils

I am a big born-again Dungeons & Dragons nerd. I was properly getting into tabletop face-to-face RPGs about 5 years ago, right on the tail-end of D&D 3.5 edition, and to be honest the whole thing seemed a little intimidating; splatbook after splatbook after splatbook, and horror stories of high-level Wizards reducing campaigns to farce with a few carefully worded Wish spells. I was quite happy to stay out of that and run d20 Modern (great fun, and the system I popped my DM cherry on).

However, when D&D 4th edition came out, I was hooked. I loved it. I loved the massive reset. I loved the powers system, I loved the streamlined rules. I loved that you didn’t need dedicated healers in a party, I loved that Wizards could do more than throw a single Magic Missile per day at level-1, I loved that Fighters were actually worth considering at epic levels, and I just plain lusted after Warlords (Best. Class. Ever). 

I’ve run only a few one-shot adventures of D&D 4th over the years (mostly due to my gaming group’s general sense apathy), but each game has been great fun. My table’s seen a warforged fighter delivering rocket-powered haymakers, a dwarf artificer deploying magical crossbow turrets, a Russian elf ranger with a steampunk robot spider beast companion, and a half-elf warlock who was definitely cosplaying as Psycho Mantis and generally wrecking shit up for some unfortunate kobolds.

But burnout happens, and the constant splatbooks ground me down (did we really need Martial Power 2? Really? And where’s my aberrations sourcebook!?). I drifted away from D&D and started looking at White Wolf’s World of Darkness (more on this in another post). Then Wizards went and snatched me back with D&D Essentials, or – as everyone’s calling it – edition 4.5. In short, Essentials takes everything I love about 4th edition and improves on it, and trims off the crap. I’ll have great fun running Essentials games, and kicking it old-school with my group taking the classic Fighter-Rogue-Wizard-Cleric party.

(This is getting back to Christmas, I promise). 

One thing I always try and do for fun one-off adventures is theme them around upcoming holiday seasons. I always try and plan it, but it rarely happens. I did although have a magical year where I managed to get in a d20 Modern mini-campaign of Christmas and New Years Eve (seven words; Satan Claus, and Return of Satan Claus).

Based on what I see on forum threads and blogs, humorous holiday-themed adventures and mini-campaigns are popular. This, I always think, is one of the great things about RPG games. Sure, you can be super-serious, and have your year-long campaign with the epic story and NPC cast of hundreds, but sometimes you and your players can get into the spirit of whatever holiday you’re having, take a break, have a great time, and play a dumb adventure where you’re thwarting a demonic rabbit that’s stealing all the candied eggs from a village, or help out the red-cloaked, white-bearded dwarf who’s lost his reindeer golem.

Inspiration is sometimes hard to come by, and anyone who’s DM’ed for a significant time knows that there comes a time when the Oasis of Awesome Ideas dries up for a while. Books, movies and video games all help stoke the creative furnace, and the holiday seasons shouldn’t be an exception to this! You don’t even need to go to extremes. You could have a Christmas-themed adventure that has the campy schmaltzy “Christmas spirit” feel with no fantasy-equivalent Santa proxy. How about a Christmas adventure where the heroes are visited by a certain three ghosts and shown (and interact with) visions of the past and future?

Next year, I hope to run a Halloween-themed game, full of the standard Hollywood monsters – Frankenstein’s creature, a vampire, a werewolf, and so forth – but instead have the players as the “heroic” monsters, being hunted down by “evil” torch-and-pitchfork villagers, ending in a climatic battle with the local scaremongering priest. We’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all my readers (all three of you), and I hope I’ll be up to churning out more geek ramblings in 2011. 

 – Tzaph

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One thought on “Return of the Nerdi

  1. Tim from Golden Throne here. This was a great read! I’ve personally been hitting 3.5 pretty hard lately with a pile of house rules, and we’re moving to Pathfinder soon which I think is probably one of the best systems yet.

    4th edition is difficult for me to adjust to as it’s very, very, very combat oriented and that’s not really how I run things. But it also does a lot of exciting things which I like, for example moving Spot/Listen/etc into Perception, something I’ve house-ruled into our 3.5 games.

    Anyway, keep blogging! Keep calm and carry on.

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