First, let me say that none of my players know about my blog here, although I'm sure they will eventually find out. I didn't tell them about it intentionally, as I plan to use this blog to discuss and share opinions and tips on game mastering. As such, game plots about my campaign tend to be revealed here or there, so I thought it best to keep them out of the loop about Black Hole Diaries, at least for now.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, we currently play in a play-by-post game using AD&D 2e rules set in the Forgotten Realms. Of course, it doesn't beat playing at the table, but considering it's the first time all of us have been able to play DnD together as a group for nearly a decade now, it works out quite well for us. I detailed how I have made it work for us to be as close a simulation of the table top experience in another post, so go take a look if you haven't already, and you're interested in exploring the play-by-post method.
Since I plan on discussing my adventure quite a bit on this blog, I thought it best to introduce those curious enough to read all this to some of the players in the game. I've known some of these guys for over 20 years. We have a great cohesion together, because we've been playing so long. While that sounds good, and overall I suppose the pros outweigh the cons in that regard, it can be terribly difficult to design a game that can be both surprising and enjoyable because they have seen and done it all. They know my style as a DM, and I know their styles as players. Fortunately, they are all very talented gamers.
Here they are. The cast of the Northlands and Beyond.
Chris - I've known Chris for 26 years. We have been best friends our entire lives, and truly he is more like a brother to me than just a friend. Then again, the same can be said about all the guys in the group. Chris has a very eclectic taste when it comes to DnD. He doesn't tend to favor any one particular class or race. He's often careful in how he approaches a situation, taking the time to assess as thoroughly as he can. He tends to play this way due to past games where he has been tasked with accomplishing something major for the party, and being unable to get it done. This stems mainly from poor dice rolls rather than bad play on his part. He is the king of the "fumble." The joke in our group is never tell him "all you have to do to hit is NOT roll a 1," as this is often the kiss of death. Truly, he has fumbled more times in critical situations in previous games than I can even recall. His character in our current game Xilus, a Fighter/Mage/Thief half-elf from the village of Conyberry just south of the Neverwinter Wood. Yes, a Fighter/Mage/Thief. I told you he was eclectic.
Ron - Throughout most of our time playing DnD as a group, Ron has always been the primary DM. His imagination is unreal. He has crafted brilliant home brew worlds, and some of the most brilliant adventures one could imagine. He doesn't use modules, preferring to run his own adventures, and honestly, they are better than any module you could pick up. I say this having experienced some module gaming, and also running characters in his games. There is no comparison. Why he isn't working for WotC or some other gaming company is beyond me at this point. He lives far from us all now, which makes getting together to play at the table impossible, so the play-by-post works perfectly. In fact, he's created his own system of rules which he's been using to run his own games for over a decade now. As to his style of play, he tends to put a lot into his characters. He likes to flesh out a great background for them, and make them a little different from the rest. The brilliant thing about this is the fact that he can turn the basic race/class combination from the PHB into something unique without having to devote it to kits and the like. His current character, Bazhur, is a Ranger/Thief from Calimshan. He's stuck in the northlands by accident pretty much, his ship having crashed ashore there. He is in search of his wife and child, who were taken by slavers some time ago. Readers might recall a recent post in which I pointed out how he played a rather remarkable heroic situation for a 1st level character. Give it a read if you haven't already.
Billy F. - I've known Billy F. for about 17 years. He and I tend to get pretty crazy when we get together if there's alcohol involved, which we do pretty routinely. He's a funny guy with a sharp wit. In DnD, he generally tends to play the warrior type. I can't recall an instance where he ever played a mage, in fact. Most of his time has been devoted to playing melee fighters. He decided to try something new in this game, and play a Paladin. He chose this, I imagine, because he knows that often in games I run, it becomes nearly impossible to play the Paladin class. I wouldn't say I am necessarily strict on how I look at the Paladin class, however there are certain benefits derived from the class, and it is one of the few classes in the PHB that must stick to a straight and narrow line in terms of alignment and the like. I simply hold players to those terms, which in an adventuring party full of different alignments and classes, often results in a challenge. It's been pretty interesting thus far, because his presence in the party creates a great dynamic in how they work to accomplish certain goals. Oftentimes, they work behind his back to achieve an end, not because they are doing something evil, but because he simply would not allow it if he knew about it due to the lawful good alignment. So far, he has done a good job playing the character although I have often questioned if he's really having fun with it, because it is such a departure from what he's typically used to running. His character, Davrun, is a human Paladin of Ilmater.
Rouse - Rouse was a latecomer to our group about 15 years ago. He's currently in the military and deployed, so I've been running his character as an NPC for quite some time. Rouse tends to play the lawful good type in just about every game. He loves the Paladin class, but I have sort of broken him from this in the past. We played a one-on-one campaign for about a year in which he played a Paladin that nearly lost his Paladinhood. He generally tends to play the same way with all his characters. I can't think of a time that he's ever played anything but a Paladin or Cleric. In our game, in fact, he's playing a human Cleric of Torm named Stanley.
Billy C. - Billy C. is a large man. He's a very heavy guy with a heart just as big. Truly, he's one of the nicest people I've ever had a privilege to know. His tastes are eclectic as well when it comes to DnD. He has played everything from the large melee warrior, to a devious female thief. He enjoys intrigue and shady plots in the background, and working to expose them. He's also prone to going his own way to look for things when the rest of the party is focused on something else entirely. Sometimes this is rewarding, and other times this has proven to be disastrous for the party in other games. One of the most dreaded things to hear at the gaming table is Billy C. saying "I'm opening the door." He is a good player, however, and his risk/reward style is always something I have to prep for well as a DM. He is Murphy's Law epitomized at the gaming table. If you suspect the party is going to do one thing in an encounter, you can pretty much count on Billy C. doing something entirely different. No matter how much I prepare to plan with him in mind, it never matters though. He always catches me off guard with his antics. Currently in our game he's playing a half-elf Bard named Flute. His main goal being to write tales and sing songs of the party's exploits wherever they go. Currently, he's recovering from an attack from a doppleganger, which nearly cost his character his life. Another instance of his inquisitive nature almost getting the best of him, and the party for that matter. Yet, were it not for his prying, the doppleganger would have likely inflicted even more damage on the party as a whole.
Paul - Paul is currently in the Navy and is deployed at sea. He also tends to be careful in how he handles situations. He rarely takes the lead, but often works in the background with his characters to achieve his own ends. He has a tendency to play the thief in our games. He enjoys slinking about, hiding in shadows and sneaking up on opponents. Much like Billy C., he also relishes in intrigue and the like, and he's prone to go against the grain, although not to the extent of Billy C. He's a good player, and his ideas and input on certain situations have saved the party on more than one occasion. His current character is a human thief named Rabe Branty.
There you have it; the cast of The Northlands and Beyond campaign. Now, that I've taken the time to introduce you to them and their characters, some of my posts about the campaign will make more sense. If you're interested in reading up on the campaign, take a look at our Obsidian Portal page, which we update regularly. Check out the Adventure Log there as well. Several of the players are using the Adventure Log to post entries from their own characters' perspectives, and some of them have been very awesome.