D&D: Le Tome of Bread

So, the post previous to this one was quite strange, out of the blue, and possibly surreal (your mileage may vary.) Regardless, I felt that providing context would be at the very least amusing, until such a time as God strikes me again with great spiritual motion to write something else significant.

So, Pierre is an NPC from my most recent Dungeons and Dragons campaign, hosted with a group of new friends from my also new church here in Tampa. They were all new to the game, while I have several years of experience in writing and designing not only my own campaigns, but my own balanced rule-sets to incorporate mechanics I could not find in any amount of rule supplements (nor did I have the inclination to spend money on them). They needed a Dungeon Master, and I thought it would be a fun way to spend a weekend (not knowing I would also get dinner and enough Dr. Pepper to drown in).

So, there they were on a halfling caravan, adventurers from far-off lands various: Erik Withakay, an alcoholic palace guard from the mountain kingdoms of Nowhertall, who put in a two week notice and left to see the plains below the mountain peaks; Elle Many-Daggers, the gnome grad student turned chipper, socially-awkward thief; and Volos, the unwanted scion of King Haddock of the Tritons, on a journey to find meaning in life, and acridly criticize everything along the way. Arriving in the little village of Lapplaken, which was the only habitation across the wide Lapplake swamp, they quickly discovered that this pit-stop was not only going to be extended by the oncoming flood rains making land-bound traveling an impossibility, but this pit-stop was to be in the hodunkest of hodunk towns. The nominally elven sheriff and his deputies probably had a combined alphabet of maybe three vowels and six consonants, and the intellectual level of the majority of the town’s public figures was comparable to a concussed sea slug. Depressed by their rude surroundings, Withakay quickly fell prey to mushroom rum, began quoting some unknown troubadour group called Verdant Day, and passed out over the bar. Elle was able to hold her liquor well enough to be mentally present for a harried young woman looking for the help of altruistic adventurers, and Volos was able to restrain his inner critic long enough to agree to help the single mother find her lost son without laying into her on her poor parenting skills.

Now a lot happened in between; they grilled the Three Bobs for information, and deduced that Short Bob was an idiot, Tall Bob was even more so, and Weird Bob was either the only smart man in the entire village, so stupid he was approaching intelligence from the other side, or just an imbecilic vampire.

There was a gnome archaeologist named Avelldon who was related to their quest, to find a missing boy who was lost in the swamps (which were also filled with ancient and mysterious ruins, because the people of Lapplaken were just full of great ideas when they settled their little village on top of the drowned ruins of an eons old undersea city of the dormant empire of dimension-swimming snake people. Good call Sheriff Rourke).

Avelldon was to be a collector of magical knickknacks and this-or-that’s, who could be pressured or persuaded to help the party by giving them enchanted gear and spell scrolls to help even the odds against their vastly more numerous and more powerful enemies (since they only had level 1 gear and were up against CR 8 monsters). One of these items was a magical talking book who could conjure bread at will, named The Tome of Bread. I thought this would be an amusing way to help the party not worry about the logistics of feeding themselves while still instilling in them the importance of packing sufficient rations for when they graduated to a more hardcore adventure.

So their first meeting with the Tome of Bread was on the trek to Avelldon’s house, after being subtly prompted by the frankly abysmal intellect of the average Lapplaken villager that he was probably their best bet to get any remotely useful intelligence. Upon walking up to the house, they were greeted by what sounded like a boisterous Frenchman shouting, “LE BAGUETTE!” repeatedly.

Moments later, a leather bound book appeared in the window, opened its pages, and with a LE BAGUETTE to ring down the ages, bombarded them with a hail of fresh baked baguettes.

To be continued in Part 2…

 

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Le Tome of Bread – Le Origine

Pierre, Le Tome of Bread – the First Bake

Foreword: this story is best read aloud in an exaggerated French accent. It just is.

Pierre wasn’t, and then he was. In the musty darkness of the bakery, Pierre knew nothing, though he held many words within his pages. And then, suddenly, he knew – not quite everything – but he knew a lot more then he did before.
Mostly about bread.
But the precise origins of how Pierre came to be are not a subject for a storyteller such as I – that is a topic for a wizard, or perhaps a bookbinder to tackle. I can only speak of Pierre’s deeds, not his birth.
But I know that when Pierre came to be, he was in a bit of a shock for a while.
He was rather passive with his fate. First the baker who owned him was baffled, then terrified, and quickly accused his wife of being a witch, which was not quite true, but suffice it to say, having exposed her identity on accident, he was not bound long for this world. So Pierre changed hands after being left on the shelf of a friend’s house the day before his bakeshop home exploded in a ball of green fire, and demons rampaged through the city for several weeks as the now-moderately-infamous lich Naghali of Borkindor summoned moving demons to help relocate her lair from the sewers of the sleepy small town to a more scenic location in a cliff city perched over the Bottomless Pit of Pitiness. There was some confusion in the whole affair, and while no one was seriously hurt (except for Naghali’s unwitting husband, who was incidentally evaporated in her transformation except for his head which is even now kept in a jar), there was considerable confusion and mistaken property destruction due to unclear instructions to the demons on where exactly she wanted the black dragon yearlings kenneled.

In that time Pierre thought much about the contents of his pages, wondering what meaning these numbers and proportions had and these descriptions of sights, smells and tastes which before he never had known (not having a nose, or eyes, or tongue was something of an impediment to the newborn book.)
Until one day he was left on the counter while his new owner baked a loaf of bread to celebrate the defeat of the demonic invasion – and as he read out the recipe in Pierre’s pages, that old, leather bound book finally understood his purpose, and cried out in revelation, “No monsieur! That recipe is TERRIBLE! Use the one with the almonds! I promise you, you shall live forever!”
Unfortunately, his owner thought the demons were returning in book form, clutched his chest in agony, and died on the spot of a massive heart attack.
After a brief investigation by the city watch, during which Pierre continually cried out for someone to open his pages and finish the bread, the house was declared haunted, condemned, and scheduled for demolition. Just as the priest was blessing the demolition crews to enter the house and smash it down with hammers, an alchemist by the name of Gormiron, who had lost his house in the Great Moving Siege, ran in the door, sat in the hall, and declared he had squatting rights.
Frankly glad to be rid of the accident-prone alchemist (more on his reputation later), the city did not object, and Gormiron was given possession of the ‘haunted’ house. However, even now having a house with literally zero rent, Gormiron still struggled with a truly astronomical debt from his numerous failed experiments, and it seemed like they would throw him in the can, when he discovered he was not the only tenant of this dilapidated, moldy city cottage….

 

No Context #2: And Now For Something Completely Different

Have you ever gone out on a rescue mission for the most uncomfortably designed sex-robot who was kidnapped by psychotic drugged-out desert bandits, only to be lured into an ambush of animatronic suicide teddy bears engaged in a dangerous game of landmine frisbee, then upon acquiring and taming the sex-robot, whose circuit boards have all been replaced with cheese pizza, been roped into performing in a concert for the king of the raiders by a giant mutant lizard thing with claws the size of your forearm, playing a giant electric guitar made out of a 40mm anti-aircraft gun, while also protecting him from assassins in the middle of the mosh-pit concert while he rocks out the hardest anyone has in ages, killing several dozen audience members with his guitar cannon, and instead of being rewarded with money, been showered with dozens of copies of his newest album?

Continue reading No Context #2: And Now For Something Completely Different

D&D Story #1: No Context

Saturdays are great. Particularly when not taking your ADHD meds.

Contained within Landsknecht of 4/2/2016 are events various such as multiple electrocutions, a satanist cult, attempted assassination, a very unconvincing viking, a vampire, and an explosive tampon.

Read on only if you have an appreciation for the puerile, the crass, and the absurd.

Continue reading D&D Story #1: No Context

Quick Query and Miscellany

Much as I love debating the mechanics of D&D, I am no long-studied wizard in the art of the game– neither am I particularly aged in writing. Eleven years is a long time, but not so long when you still don’t have a driver’s license, still haven’t held even a part-time job, or figured out this mysterious Western tradition called “oral hygiene.”

In the midst of that, I’m contemplating expanding the focus and content of this blog, adding in my random daily sketches (of varying quality, mostly low), droll one-liners, peculiar dreams, and completely out of context happenings from the weekly D&D campaign.

And probably adding more stories. I can’t guarantee any grammatically flawed stories in Russian, but needless to say I was rather startled at the response I received, mostly in that there was a response.

 

It’s Been a While, so Here’s a Game!

Something I didn’t make clear in my previous D&D centered posts is my absurd and self-flagellating obsession with modding. Tabletop games, that is, not computer games (which at this stage still overwhelms my capacity for code lingo.)

I find D&D a flawed system— but only in the same sense of a large hunk of unsmelted iron oxide. With a forge, hours of labor, a few watts of electricity for computer power, and the anvil of my desk (using my forehead as the hammer), I can make nearly any imaginable creation from it.

Continue reading It’s Been a While, so Here’s a Game!

Day Six: How Cramping Doesn’t Cramp You

Shame upon me, I’m late!

In spending an evening listening to remixes of the glorious compositions of the underestimated Ennio Morricone, I entirely forgot to put up a post last night. Which, really, isn’t that big a deal.

But principles matter.

And that’s why I adhere to realism in my roleplay.

No, not for its own sake, to accurately model fencing manuals of the late fifteenth century and paint a stark lithograph of a fight in armored harness. At the end of the day, it’s still a game, not training for a post-apocalyptic scenario in which your local SCA group must band together to defend the town against mutants and zombified football hooligans.

Continue reading Day Six: How Cramping Doesn’t Cramp You

Day One (?): It’s the Players that Make the Play

Okay, first real post.

Now that we’ve made an acquaintance of each other (if we haven’t PM me for an intimate, sensual, and mentally disturbed personalized Acquaintance-Maker 9000), here goes:

The Case Against Heroes: Storytelling in Roleplay and Writing

Heroes just aren’t that fun to GM for.

This is not a belittlement of players, nor of the heroic narrative. It’s a commentary on what makes a truly fascinating hero, as far as writers, dungeon masters, and role-players are concerned, condensed into three neat points, and probably leaving out a lot of other details (I need more than one post, alright?)

In a good campaign, regardless of what plot the DM may have laid out, it is ultimately the players’ characters who tell the story. At least, I assume that’s what a good campaign is because my players are still with me, and I’ve come to accept that whatever story I write down is not the one that will be told.

With that said, the player characters do not necessarily tell a good story. The DM may not have a better one either. In fact, separate, without communication, it is virtually impossible to create a quality story. It might create some occasional eye-roll worthy moments or the odd burst of laughter as a random passerby is mugged for his kidneys, but characters disjointed from setting can’t tell a story that can touch (a subject for another blogpost in itself.)

When it comes time for a new setting and to ask my players to roll up new characters, I’ve noticed they tend towards the epic scale of character origins. The example I’ll use here is with a Pathfinder campaign I homebrewed in a vaguely Asian setting called Saichu, a low fantasy feudal JapanChina with some Scottish elves and giant lizard men (called Syntar in setting) tacked on for flavor. I began preparations for it about a month in advance, my players having the same time to stew on their characters.

What we got was a former bodyguard to the empress of the Syntar turned bounty hunter, a possessed sorceress whose father was a retinue man of the shogun, an initiate demon-hunting monk of a long forgotten order dedicated to fighting the god of chaos (and talkative crows), a crackshot yakuza assassin cancer patient (an example of everything that can go wrong with dice-rolled stats), and a drunken samurai with serious daddy / brother / mommy / relative issues.

Though taken as a sum this should have been an amazing combination, it quickly became a train wreck of a campaign. Players tried to murder each other on at least three occasions, someone tried to debate trickle-down economics with a samurai lord, and the Syntar kept kicking people through doors. Not only was the balance of combat destroyed, but the story itself failed to progress meaningfully, in large part because the characters were already too developed. Not by levels or power, but by their stories. With so many vastly different objectives and no particular reason to work together nor common background, the group lost cohesion, and stumbled sluggishly from one DM-suggested objective to another.

This mess was in large part my fault. Because I had failed to effectively communicate the idea of ‘progressing’ characters to my players and had failed to coordinate their character creation, the campaign limped on for six sessions before they caused an apocalyptic flood while attending a communist musical.

Was it a boring campaign? No, not by any stretch. That result depends on what you, whether player or DM, want out of a campaign. If you’re just here for a bloody good time, then there is no reason not to indulge in ridiculously overblown characters and frequent overreaction; i.e., trolling.

But if you are intending to tell a serious story in which your characters undergo meaningful change, and exit the plot with some profound internal insight, then the characters must also fit the setting.

At any rate, this is a complex topic, best discussed in multiple parts, and preferably without Charles Barkley yelling at me from the next room over.