Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Kobold Ate My Homework...

Dungeons & Dragons has been an integral part of my life since I was thirteen years old.  As such, I started a blog series about my history with the game back in April of last year.  Inspired by a phrase spouted Tourette's-style by my buddy Mark every six to eight minutes during our Ravenloft campaign, I dubbed this series "I Hit It With My Axe".

Well, a few months later, while Googling myself (early odds-on favorite to win the "Most Inadvertently Pervy-Sounding Pastime of 2012 Award"), this title search invariably brought me to a certain D&D-related video series on The Escapist.   

I blasted through these in short order and eventually landed at the salacious-sounding blog of series overlord Zak Sabbath (née Smith).  He's a Dungeons & Dragons ambassador of sorts: a diligent DM and a tireless writer, sometimes posting as many as forty five inspired (and inspiring) RPG-flavored entries in a single month.

Much has been said about Smith's headline-grabbing connections to the alternative adult film industry but frankly, I don't give a shit.  When you get down to brass tacks, the dude is intelligent, perceptive, well-read, artistic and he's obviously madly in love with the same quaintly antiquated girl I'm enamored with.

To be perfectly honest, I think a case can be made that I started this self-same blog just as an excuse to respond to one of Smith's recent posts.  On Wednesday January 18'th, he posted a "GM Questionnaire", thinking about which has done more to re-kindle my desire to play Dungeons & Dragons then anything else I've read in the past five years.

So, now that I'm done publicly fellating the man, here are Zak's questions (in bold) followed by my answers:

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

As a young Catholic kid I was always fascinated with the concept of God made incarnate.  But in my warped fantasy world, "Jesus" was named Llelewyn and she was the product of an unnatural union between two mortals made similar only in their extremes of good an evil.  This impossible birth somehow usurped the hierarchy of the ruling gods and the resulting Days of Chaos that followed turned my campaign into a pen-and-paper Mattias Grunewald painting for a few exciting months.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

July 16'th, 2011 (*hangs head in shame*)

3. When was the last time you played?

August 28'th, 2011 (*shoots dirty look at DM*)

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

PC's get pulled into the still-active brain of a comatose wizard where they're forced to win a Laurence of Arabia-style guerrilla war against his imagined rival in order to escape.     Hey, you asked. 

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Find notes, dig out minis, think of threatening lines of dialogue, think of stupid voices with which to deliver those threatening lines of dialogue, try and silently answer questions like: 'Oh shit, what do I do now?'   

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

I eat anything smaller then I am. 

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Physically, no.  Mentally is another story, tho...   

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Scrambling up a rope to ring a bell which prevented a bunch of evil undead beasties from eating our collective faces off.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

Talk around the table is decidedly unserious, probably 'cuz the in-game action is often grim as shit.  

10. What do you do with goblins?

I usually let them die by the wagon-load.  To make up for that, I hereby pledge to make all my future goblins more perverse, decadent and hoarier.  Is that a word?     

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

A lake that I hike to in the summer became the site of a deliciously precarious ambush.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

Notwithstanding the one included in my first entry, there was that one adventure where Thomas knocked himself out more times then Curious George with a bottle full of either.  Or when he cleverly employed his much-maligned full-length mirror to creatively knock out a bunch of orcs with a "Sleep" spell.  Or that time he kept randomly casting spells and drinking potions while his character was suffering from amnesia.  As you can tell, Tom often brings the funny...    

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

I was looking in the D&D 3 / 3.5 edition manuals trying to figure out why time-keeping wasn't indexed.  Seriously, what were they theenking?

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

I'm still convinced that I've yet to see my "perfect" illustrator, but I dig Keith Parkinson, Tim Trueman, (some) Clyde Caldwell, Larry Elmore, early Brothers Hildebrandt and D.A.T for his olde-skool hoary (?) weirdness.  Here's an awesome example:

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

Yes.  If fact, if I didn't instill a modicum of fear, I've failed miserably as a DM.  

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

Lack of time and sheer laziness caused me to slum with the creatively bankrupt pref-fab adventures included with the 3 / 3.5 Basic boxed sets.  They were universally wretched but knitting them all into a cohesive campaign made them tolerable and then my awesome players made them great.  A grueling defense of a dwarven stronghold besieged by goblins was quite memorable and it was capped off by a dramatically- appropriate PC death. 

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

My players seated in granite-hard chairs around a massive board-of-directors style oak table while I'm ensconced in a twelve-foot-high tennis umpire chair with a massive cotton ball cloud stuck to the bottom of it. 

Oh!  I'd also like to have a dumb waiter attached to the side of my chair so I can lower snacks and/or minis up and down.  

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be? 

Agricola (a board game about farming) and Star Wars: Queen's Gambit (a board game which has the distinction of being the only decent thing to come out of the abominable prequel trilogy)

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

Lapsed Catholicism, conspiracy theories, David Lynch, and John Carpenter's The Thing.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Inventive, intrigued, good-humored, easy-going and vaguely terrified.   As a corollary I hate it when people whine and bitch about their bad luck or how much their character "sucks".  Everybody's in the same boat, princess.  Suck it up. 

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Not much since I consider the main function of RPG's is to escape from real life.  Having said that, training large groups of people at work improved my public speaking skills.  My writing and many public readings  have also positively influenced my presentations.  I also think it's relevant that I secretly long to be a ham-ball Adam West-style actor and also harbor a nigh-pathological contempt for authority figures. 

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

I'd like a fifth edition of D&D with a slew of fully-formed, ready-to-play character class templates, a la Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  This same edition would also feature a slew of monsters which are, at the very least, as scary as your average drunk driver.  I would like for these books to be written by someone with the weird, creative verbosity of a Gary Gygax and illustrated by the aforementioned Monsieur Trampier.

Thank you.  Hey, I asked nicely!  

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

My buddy Greg, who used to play D&D with me but now doesn't.  Usually he tells me that "Well, y'know, WOW gives me all of those things now."   But lately his tune is changing.  
*Heh, heh.*

Well, there it is.  I'm sorry that my homework assignment was late, Professor Smith.

But this little dog-headed, pointy-eared bastard ate the first draft...

Mattias Grunewald "The Temptation of St Anthony"
Catoblepas by David Trampier
Kobold illustration by Jim Patrick Guyer. 

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