PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3
"You know, he'd be a pretty good warrior if he had a better head for numbers."- Roy, Order of the Stick
|September 3rd, 2008|
While writing my essay on "Revisiting Encounter Design", I kept drifting towards a related topic: The fetishization of balance that appeared in 3rd Edition's fandom.
"What's wrong with balance?" you may ask.
Nothing. In fact, there are lots of perfectly valid reasons to seek balance. However, if you fetishize the pursuit of balance in a way that needlessly limits your flexibility, then you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
THE IRON MAN PRINCIPLE
Let's back up for a second: The designers of 3rd Edition wanted to provide DMs with some basic guidelines about what challenges would be appropriate for PCs of a given level. In order to do that, they first had to make some baseline assumptions about what the power levels of the PCs would be at each level. And in order to do that, they had to understand the Iron Man Principle.
The Iron Man Principle is simple. As long as:(A) There are magic items which are useful (particularly in combat); and
(B) The PCs can have those items; and
(C) The designers care about game balance at all; then
(D) There will need to be guidelines for how many items the PCs should have.
Because there is a difference between what Tony Stark can do and what Iron Man can do.
A lot of people get frustrated by the Iron Man Principle. You'll hear them say things like, "All the classes should be equally powerful with or without equipment!" or "I should be able to run a low-magic campaign without changing anything else!" Sorry, folks, but it just doesn't work that way. If you take two perfectly balanced twin brothers, tell them to fight, and then stick one of them in the Iron Man suit... well, that guy's gonna win.
A COUPLE OF BIG MYTHS
Myth #1: Older editions didn't feature as many magic items.
Myth #2: In 3rd Edition, PCs level up much faster than in older editions.
A couple years ago, Quasqueton at ENWorld posted a detailed analysis of the classic modules from the 1st Edition era. His conclusions shocked many people: If you played through those classic adventures by-the-book, you would level up at pretty much the same pace and you would have roughly the same number of magic items.
There is a slight caveat with Myth #2, however. In older editions of the game, XP was rewarded for treasure. For every 1 gp of treasure a character got, they were also supposed to receive 1 XP. The vast majority of groups, however, considered this to be a "stupid" rule and didn't play with it. The result was that almost everybody remembers advancement in previous editions being slower than in 3rd Edition (and those memories are quite accurate... insofar as they weren't actually playing by the rules).
(I'm going to take a tangent for a moment here and defend the GP = XP guideline. Experience points are, fundamentally, an abstraction that exists almost entirely in the metagame. This is often misunderstood, which is why you'll hear people saying things like "you shouldn't get better at jumping because you killed some orcs". But the reality is that the rewarding of XP -- whether it's for overcoming combat challenges, surviving traps, achieving story goals, or exceptional roleplaying -- is ultimately a dissociated mechanic. In the case of classic D&D campaigns, treasure wasn't just laying around. You gained treasure by exploring dangerous dungeons, surviving traps, and solving puzzles. Rewarding XP for treasure was a proxy reward: It wasn't about rewarding someone for picking up a gold piece, it was about rewarding them for the effort it took to get that gold piece. But I digress...)
So what the designers of 3rd Edition basically did was simple: They looked at the older editions of the game, broke down the expected style of play (as represented in the classic modules), and then hard-coded those values into things like the Wealth By Level table.
Now, your personal experience with previous editions may have varied quite a bit from what 3rd Edition hard-coded into its expectations. That's because pretty much everybody extensively house ruled the older editions in order to cater them to their personal tastes and (in some cases) just to make them playable at all.
THE FALSE FASCISM
With 3rd Edition, however, a kind of false fascism arose. It looked like this: Older editions were easier to house rule. Why? Because in the new edition if you make a change you'll screw-up the game balance!
There is an iota of truth here: The previous versions of the game were so badly balanced that the entire concept of "game balance" was pretty much a joke. Anyone trying to convince you that dual-class characters were balanced compared to multiclass characters, for example, should be taken immediatey to a detox center.
So it wasn't that the extensive house ruling of AD&D wasn't changing the balance of the game... it's just that the "balance" of the game was already so screwed up that nobody could tell the difference if you screwed it up a little more. (And it was pretty easy to make it a little better without a lot of effort.)
But the fact that the designers of 3rd Edition actually did a lot of work to improve the balance of the game doesn't mean that house ruling had suddenly become impossible. For me, the firmer foundation of 3rd Edition made it a lot easier to tweak just the stuff I wanted to tweak to achieve whatever effect I was aiming for. But, for other people, the firm foundation became a kind of golden handcuffs -- discouraging them from tweaking the game to match their personal tastes, while leaving them feeling trapped.
CHALLENGE RATING OCD
Let's see if I can explain this as concisely as possible. The designers of 3rd Edition:
(1) Set certain expectations regarding the capability of an average party of level X.
(2) Used those expectations to create a rough ballpark determination of what type of challenges a party with average character level X could face.
(3) Classified encounters using a challenge rating and encounter level of X, where X equals the average character level of a typical party that would find that encounter challenging.
For me, this seems pretty clear-cut. The CR/EL system is not a cure-all. It doesn't allow the DM to turn off their brain. But it does provide a pretty useful tool for quickly narrowing in on the particular range of encounters that would be appropriate for a given party.
But some people just don't seem to get it. And this is where the fetishization of balance takes hold, causing people to respond in one of two ways:
First, there are those who bash the CR/EL system because it isn't a cure-all. They argue that because it's possible to create a party of characters who are either less powerful or more powerful than the expected standard, the CR/EL system is useless.
Second, there are those who feel that any deviation from the expected power levels for group X is a sin. If a party of level X isn't capable of taking on challenges of EL X, then somebody has screwed up. It's simply not acceptable for the party not to have a meat-shield; or for the rogue to take Knowledge (nobility) instead of Disable Device; or for the arcanist to specialize in non-combat spells; or for a 15th level character not to have a cloak of resistance.
MOVING PAST THE FETISH
Here's one way in which we can move past this fetishization of balance:
(1) Understand that the CR/EL system measures capability along an expected baseline.
(2) Understand that, if you deviate from that expected baseline, the CR/EL system will become increasingly less useful.
(3) Don't worry about it.
Seriously. The CR/EL system has a lot of nice utility, but there's no reason to let that utility needlessly handcuff you.
For example, I frequently hear people complain about how "difficult" it is to run a 3rd Edition campaign without giving the PCs the magical items the designers assumed they would have. This just isn't true. If you want less magical equipment, just do it. This means that you'll have to use less powerful monsters to challenge the party, but that's hardly the end of the world.
As another example, there was a recent thread at the Giant in the Playground forums in which a DM was fretting because one of his players had chosen to play a plain-vanilla fighter from the core rulebooks instead of pursuing the more tweaked out options from some of the supplements. In a similar discussion a few years back, a different DM was worried because the fighter in his party was making sub-optimal feat selections (including Skill Focus).
And, once again, the solution is simple: Just do it. If the relative weakness of the meat-shield is reducing the party's ability to handle combat encounters, use easier foes. If the concern is one of the player not being happy because their character isn't performing well compared to the other PCs, then you can talk about letting them redesign the character. But the truth is even that problem is less likely to arise in 3rd Edition because of the niche protection afforded by the design of the game.
(Short version, which I discuss in greater length in the "Death of the Wandering Monster" essay: Fighters can perform consistently and constantly across many encounters. Wizards, on the other hand, get larger bangs than the fighter -- but can't use them as often. The fighter will only feel out-performed by the wizard if (a) the player of the fighter would prefer to be playing like a wizard or (b) the overall style of play in the group is favoring the wizard instead of the fighter. But those will become issues regardless of the overall optimization of the fighter or wizard.)
One of the great things about 3rd Edition is the broad range of power levels it's capable of handling -- from low-powered commoners at 1st level all the way to insanely high-powered demigods at 20th level. (This is something I also talk about in "D&D: Calibrating Your Expectations".) One of the nice things about this range of power levels is that it gives you all the tools you need to easily customize your campaign based on the actual (and not expected) power of the party.
If you were somehow mandated to use only CR 5 creatures when building an encounter for 5th level characters, then the fetishization of balance might have some point to it. But if the PCs are under-powered for 5th level (because you've limited their magic items; because their equipment has been stolen from them; because their characters haven't been optimized for combat; because there is a non-standard mix of classes in the group), then you can simply use less powerful foes. And if the PCs are over-powered for 5th level (because the PCs managed to loot more treasure than you expected; because they have higher than normal ability scores; because the players are just really good at the game), then you can simply use more powerful foes.
(And it should be noted that, even though I talk about monsters and foes a lot, this advice applies equally to other aspects of the system as well -- skill checks, environmental hazards, traps, and so forth.)
In the final analysis, of course, there's nothing wrong with playing straight by-the-book D&D, either. The standard party compositions, typical combat optimization, expected wealth and equipment, and the usual focus and pace of dungeon-crawling activities have made the game beloved by millions, after all.
But, on the flip-side, there's no need to be stitching up arbitrary straitjackets for yourself when the game has plenty of flexibility to cater to your needs.
SARAH PALIN: THE MOST DANGEROUS WOMAN IN POLITICS
If you're politically progressive -- if you support civil rights; a clean environment; a fair economy; a well-run government; and the like -- then Sarah Palin is dangerous. She has the right look, the right voice, and the right personal narrative to craft a political persona for herself which can resonate with a lot of people. Like Reagan before her, she can tool the power of perception to her advantage. And the power of perception can be very powerful in politics.
On top of that, she's demonstrating a keen instinct for the jugular and the ability to articulate Republican talking points. Whether she's writing the speeches or not is truly immaterial. She's not Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, but she's one of the best public speakers the Republicans have had in years.
I expect that Palin wil be a major mover-and-shaker in the Republican party for years to come. She will be a highly visible and highly effective spokesperson for the party. And she'll probably be a very viable candidate for a Presidential run in 2012.
With all that being said, however, Palin has several key weaknesses:
(1) She suffers from a profound lack of experience. The Republicans are trying to spin that away by saying that she has more experience than Obama (she doesn't) or by claiming that only executive experience counts for anything (a standard which means that John McCain is has no relevant experience). It's very important that they don't win this battle. Palin is inexperienced and she needs to remain defined that way through this election cycle.
(2) She has given two major speeches since being named as the VP nominee... and each of those speeches has been riddled with blatant lies. Those lies (and any lies she chooses to tell in the future) need to be repeatedly emphasized so that her credibility can be (quite rightfully) destroyed.
(3) She has several rather significant scandals hanging over her. Troopergate, her involvement with the secessionist Alaskan Independent Party, the book-bannings, and the politically-motivated "loyalty" firings cannot be allowed to fall to the back-burner.
(You'll notice that none of the pregnancy nonsense or "mommy shouldn't be allowed to go back to work" foolishness is mentioned above. That's because those are, frankly, red herrings that provide nothing but a distraction from the more meaningful and substantive narrative.)
The next week is going to be fairly crucial. If Palin can be defined in terms of her failures, her lies, and her scandals then she'll be effectively neutralized in this election cycle. (Although her ability to fire up the Republican base is not irrelevant, particularly if it frees McCain to finally skew back towards more moderate positions.)
But even if she's neutralized in this election, she's not going to go to away. She's a young Republican politician who has been thrust into a party leadership role at a time when the existing leaders of the party are aging their way out of politics. There are only two ways she doesn't assume a major role (including that possible 2012 run for President):
(1) One of her scandals breaks big. If Troopergate were to result in a criminal conviction or impeachment or if a video were to emerge of her explicitly endorsing the AIP's secessionist platform, that would probably be sufficient to tarnish her political reputation in a way that would take years to recover from (if she ever could).
(2) The McCain-Palin ticket is blown out by the Obama-Biden ticket in the kind of humiliating display of political impotence that destroys careers. We're talking about the kind of political whipping that McGovern received in '72; Mondale and Ferrara received in '84; or Dole and Kemp received in '96.
However, I don't consider either of those scenarios to be particularly likely.
In any case, I'll be keeping a close eye on the polls over the next couple of weeks. I'm hopeful that the trends from earlier this week will persist and that the selection of Palin will be defined as the point where the McCain campaign finally shot itself irrevocably in the foot. But if she can somehow slip out from her inexperience, her mendacity, and her scandals, then Palin could become a very dangerous factor over the last 50 days of this campaign.
AERIE - MINI-WEB SUPPLEMENT
THE SPRING THAW
The city of Aerie is carved into the very mountain itself. The tier of the Lower City is dwarfed upon the western side by the Griffon Wall and upon the other by the Upper City, which rises 300 feet. And above the Upper city, seeming to stand sentinel over the city below, is the Fort on the Mount, home to the fabled Griffon Knights.
And towering above it all is the snowy peak of Mt. Auroch.
Each spring, the mountain snow above the city begins to thaw, creating a considerable amount of run-off. The city would be regularly flooded if it were not for the extensive drainage system which carries water from along the eastern wall, under the Uppe rCity, and down to the river in the Lower City. This run-off does raise the level of the river considerably, and the River Road is often flooded during this time of the year -- but it was designed specifically to handle the overflow.
A secondary effect of the spring thaw, however, are the beautiful waterfalls which form along the eastern wall during the greater periods of run-off. Fifty years ago, the eastern portion of the Upper City actually suffered from an avalanche as snow plummeted off the wall and buried dozens of buildings.
PROPERTY AND THE HISTORY OF WOMEN
Recently I've been reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. The book, as a whole, attempts to provide a universal overview of women -- biologically, historically, culturally, and socially -- from the dawn of time down through the mid-20th century (when it was written). It's a stunningly ambitious project and, to its credit, succeeds far more often than it fails.
In the historical section of the book, Beauvoir analyzes how and why women came to be subjugated in almost every culture from the beginning of recorded history until the present day. If it was a matter of pure chance or a cultural artifact, she argues, we would not expect it to appear so reliably in cultures with little or no connection to each other. Nor would we expect to see the subjugation continue with such unmitigated persistence in all of these disparate cultural traditions while every other aspect of those cultures could be seen to shift dramatically.
Beauvoir makes a rather worthwhile argument that the key moment of change lies in the shift from hunter-gatherer societies (in which women are frequently seen as societal equals or even superiors) to agricultural societies. In short, no matter where agriculture arose, women were almost simultaneously subjugated. This indicates that the subjugation of women is neither a biological imperative nor some cultural oddity, but rather the result of something systemic to early agricultural societies.
Unfortunately, Beauvoir ends up muddying her argument rather thoroughly with heavy doses of mysticism, existentialism, and bald assertion. (These features may also be the result of a poor translation.) So, to try to straighten this out in my own mind, I wanted to put it down in a clearer form and then expand upon it.
Prior to the invention of agriculture (roughly 10,000 years ago), women were mythologically venerated. The degree to which this translated to daily life is somewhat unclear, but based on a variety of information (including the study of primitive tribes) it seems clear that men and women in hunter-gatherer societies were generally considered equals. There was a division of labor in these societies (usually with the men hunting and the women gathering) based on the physical differences between the genders, but not subjugation.
But with the invention of agriculture, things shifted. Mother goddesses were shoved out of power and replaced with male gods. And by the time written records begin to appear, women have almost universally been shoved into a second-place status.
Something had changed.
CHANGE #1: PROPERTY
Agriculture created a sense of ownership in the land. And I think, from that, a stronger sense of property in general developed. Property is a form of power and allows for the extension of the personal will. The desire for control seems pretty deeply ingrained into humanity, and property is one way of asserting control.
This expansion of the concept of property eventually led to other humans being controlled as property. Slavery is the most egregious form of this concept, but the concept is also expressed in the idea that a daughter belongs to her father and is given to her husband.
What determines the difference between master and slave? Power. And in a society ruled by physical strength, who gains the power and who becomes the object to be owned? Statistically speaking, it's the male who has more physical strength than the female.
In this way, the expansion of the concept of personal property leads to the opportunity for the subjugation of women.
CHANGE #2: LEGACY AND IMMORTALITY
The expansion of property rights also created the ability to pass on a greater and more meaningful legacy to your children.
The nascent desire to achieve immortality through our children (so that some part of us might continue throughout eternity) is a pretty basic building block of human psychology. But being able to give our children property acts as a kind of force magnifier on our genetics: Now we're not just passing on our flesh and blood, but also all that we have achieved in the course of our own lifetimes.
(The ultimate futility of this is demonstrated by Ozymandias, for example, but that doesn't stop us from wanting it.)
But there's a catch here: Without property, we're perfectly happy to spread our genetic material far and wide and hope that some of it will endure. With property, however, there's suddenly a desire to give it to the most worthy of our heirs. And, even more importantly, make sure it goes to one of our heirs and not somebody else's heirs.
Unlike women, however, men have no surety of paternity. Which means that they have no inherent surety that they're giving their property to their own kid or to the kid of some guy just down the street.
In order to gain that surety, the female mate must be controlled. And this creates the motivation for the subjugation of women.
CHANGE #3: FAMILY SIZE
There is plenty of evidence -- both archaeological and anthropological -- indicating that the movement from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society resulted in larger families. This is either because the agricultural lifestyle required a larger workforce (which was obtained by having a larger family) or it was because the predictability of the agricultural lifestyle allowed for more children (which was desirable because of the legacy and sense of immortality they created).
However, for women having more children means spending more time in the non-productive state of biological reproduction (i.e., pregnant or recovering from pregnancy). Because women become less productive, they become more dependent on the production of men.
There are two edges to this sword: First, dependence allows for control. To put it in crude terms, if leaving your husband means you'll starve to death, you effectively can't leave your husband.
Second, because men are the breadwinners, they have a natural inclination to believe that the resulting wealth belongs to them alone. (Even if, in point of fact, their own productivity is heavily ennabled by their wife's partnership and the children she is sacrificing her own productivity to bear and raise.) Since it is their wealth -- not their wife's wealth -- the desire to make sure it goes to their own child (and not the progeny of cuckoldry) becomes even stronger.
(These impulses, it can be noted, explain the common laws prohibiting women -- particularly married women -- from owning property. It is a simple and expedient way to make sure that they can't lay claim to any of the wealth which their husbands believe belongs rightfully to themselves and to their sons.)
This is all simplified to its most basic components, of course. But that's pretty much inherent in the exercise: We're looking at the broad similarities created in society and economy by the agricultural revolution. Those broad similarities result in certain cultural patterns, of which the oppression of women is one.
And that's why the oppression of women appears in tandem with the agricultural revolution, even when cultures are discovering agriculture independently.
On the flip-side, this does lead to the interesting observation that women's liberation groups first began meeting with widespread success right around the time of the industrial revolution. In other words, the oppression of women appeared with agricultural economies and began disappearing as the agricultural economies gave way to industrial economies.
Is that mere coincidence?
From a philosophical standpoint, the women's liberation movement is commonly understood to grow out of the Enlightenment-era focus on liberty. But were those philosophies only able to find fertile soil because the economies created by the industrial revolution de-emphasized inheritable property, reduced the need for large families, and made it possible women to obtain gainful employment?
This, ultimately, opens a much larger discussion of whether culture influnces economy; or if its the economy that influences culture. I suspect that, to one degree or another, both are true. I also suspect that it's probably more insightful to look at how the necessities of an economy create certain social structures, and then look at the cultural impact those social structures have. (For example, the agricultural revolution may have subjugated women, but that subjugation manifested itself in very different ways across a wide swath of cultures and classes.)
|September 7th, 2008|
JARED DIAMOND'S WORST MISTAKE
Yesterday I wrote about the role the agricultural revolution played in oppressing women. While exploring that subject, I ended up wandering off on a rather large tangent that I eventually deleted when it became large enough to sufficiently defocus the essay. But I think it's a sufficiently interesting to discuss it here.
Jared Diamond has made the argument in several books and essays -- most notably Guns, Germs, and Steel -- that the move from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies was the "worst mistake" in history. To support this conclusion, he cites various evidence which indicates that the larger families of early agricultural societies actually resulted in poorer nutrition, hygiene, and even longevity compared to the hunter-gatherer societies they replced.
But Diamond's thesis makes little sense: No one would willingly choose a less appealing lifestyle. Diamond argues that these societies were "forced" into this lifestyle due to their inability to control their birth rates. But this contradicts the known facts: For tens or hundreds of thousands of years, mankind was able to regulate their birth rates just fine while continuing to live in hunter-gatherer societies. And, in fact, modern hunter-gatherer societies manage to similarly regulate their birth rates.
I suspect the reality is that the agricultural lifestyle was preferred specifically because it allowed for larger families. This is a point of view which is probably difficult for a scholar from the latter half of the 20th century to understand, given that contemporary western society puts a very low premium on children compared to previous epochs of history.
Oh, we still like our children... we just tend to like them in moderation. The idea of a single woman bearing 20 children seems unspeakably alien and even slightly distasteful to us... but would seem incredibly desirable to most cultures of recorded history.
So those early farmers may have been hungry, dirty, and short-lived... but it wasn't a mistake. They were gaining something that they valued even more.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE
STARTING A CAMPAIGN
Starting tomorrow I'll be posting campaign journals from my ongoing campaign -- Ptolus: In the Shadow of the Spire. These journals are actually quite long, so I won't be clogging up the main page with them. (I will be posting links to them.)
What I will be posting to the main page, however, are original essays relating to the journal entries. Some of these will be sort of "Behind the Scenes" commentary, which may only be of interest if you enjoy reading the journals themseles. (Which I hope you will.) But others will spin-off from the journal material to talk about my DMing techniques and adventure design. (Although, let's be honest, whether those will be any more interesting or insightful is proably open to debate.)
This particular post will probably end up being a little bit of both, as I talk a little about the origins of the campaign.
STEP 1: THE SEED OF AN IDEA
I started my first full-fledged 3rd Edition campaign in the summer of 2001. The impetus for that campaign was the desire to run John Tynes' Three Days to Kill. I spent a couple of weeks sketching out the map of a campaign world, roughing in the history and mythology of the setting, and then developing the broad outlines of a five act campaign (starting with the events of Three Days to Kill).
That was the origin of a setting I refer to as the Western Lands. Since that time, the Western Lands have served as the setting for most of my D&D games.
My desire to run a Ptolus campaign actually dates all the way back to 2002. That was the year that Monte Cook released The Banewarrens mega-adventure. I knew as soon as I read The Banewarrens that this was a campaign I wanted to run -- it combined an evocative mythology; a unique setting; and a flexible, open-ended design. I actually started laying down the groundwork immediately: The PCs in that first Western Lands campaign traveled through Ptolus, allowing me to establish both the city and the distinctive Spire.One thing led to another, however, I ended up running several other campaigns before my attention returned once more to The Banewarrens. And then I hit one more delay because I heard that Monte Cook was developing the most ambitious city supplement ever published, describing the city of Ptolus in exuberant detail.
STEP 2: THE BACKBONE
By 2007, Monte Cook had published over 1000 pages of material for Ptolus (including the deluxe 660 page sourcebook). Improperly done, that much material could have acted as a straitjacket -- choking any life or spontaneity from the setting. But, impressively, Cook designed the material to maximize its usefulness at the game table. The richness of the setting really excited me.
The other thing that excited me was the adventure material. In addition to The Banewarrens, I also had the sample adventures from the Ptolus sourcebook and the Night of Dissolution mega-adventure.
This material, with a fair degree of restructuring, became the backbone for the first two acts of a five-act campaign structure focused around a fusion of Ptolus mythology and the mythology of the Western Lands.
STEP 3: PUBLISHED ADVENTURES
Opinions on using published adventures tend to vary quite a bit: Some people are for them as time-savers; others criticize them for lacking creativity.
I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of this debate. For me, a well-designed adventure module is like a well-written play. Part of the entertainment value is in taking someone else's creative material and interpreting it. There's also something I really relish in the concept of a common experience shared disparately among many different gamers.
We tend to think of creativity as something that begins with a blank canvas and disparage anything that "rips off" something else. But the reality is that lots of valuable creative work doesn't start with a blank canvas, and this type of creative interpretation is widely recognized in many artforms: Thousands of actors interpret the words of Shakespeare every year. T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, and elements of Neil Gaiman's Sandman have all drawn from mythology. John Howe and Alan Lee interpret the works of J.R.R. Tolkien in their paintings.
On the flip-side, while I will strategically use published adventures in my campaigns, they seldom define my campaigns. For example, in the case of In the Shadow of the Spire, Monte Cook's material forms the backbone of the first three acts of the campaign... but only about 25% of the adventure material I'm using is pre-published (and only some of the material is Cook's).
(Although working in Ptolus has been interesting because so much of the original material I'm generating is still, quite naturally, being heavily influenced by the unique mythology and history of the city.)
Perhaps one of the reasons I have success with published modules is because my use is governed by desire instead of need. For example, I didn't decide to run The Banewarrens because I was looking for a mini-campaign that would take the PCs from 6th to 10th level. I decided to run The Banewarrens because I thought it was a pretty awesome adventure.
And that's pretty typical of how I use published adventures in general. On my shelf I've got a couple dozen or so published adventures for a variety of RPGs that I think are pretty nifty (for one reason or another). A few of those will serve as the impetus for an entire campaign that will grow up around them, like an oak growing out of an acorn. But most of them will see use for the opposite reason: I'll be designing a campaign and I'll see a place where I can slot them in.
For example, Act II of In the Spire of the Shadow revolves in part around pursuing a network of cults. It just makes sense to go out and grab a couple of the cult-oriented adventures I've got hanging around and seeing if I can make them work within the larger structure of this section of the campaign.
STEP 4: THE PLAYERS
In the Shadow of the Spire actually started as an online game. My primary motivation for this was David Blackmer. David had been one of my players in the original Western Lands campaign, and that campaign had actually come to an end when he moved to Indiana. David is an amazing roleplayer, and I had missed playing with him ever since he left.
So I put together a suite of tools including ScreenMonkey and Skype so that David and I could play together. When all was said and done, I'd also picked up players in Arizona and Iowa. Adding a couple of locals to the mix gave me a group with five players.
STEP 5: GETTING STARTED
Which is where we'll pick up tomorrow...
SARAH PALIN... SERIOUSLY PEOPLE
First: She's liar.
Third: She has revealed the seedy hypocrisy of the Republican party.
But probably the most impressive thing about Sarah Palin is that she is, in fact, the entirety of John McCain's economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy and foreign policy:
He said so himself when he claimed that, whenever Barack Obama is talking about John McCain's economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, and foreign policy, he's actually talking about Sarah Palin.
And did I mention that she's using the same shady tactics of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush in her attempts to impede lawful investigations into her misconduct as governor of Alaska?
So if you want corrupt, unqualified liars, hypocrites, and smear-artists in the White House -- Vote McCain-Palin 2008.