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Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for-

Gaming. Gaming is the main reason I started this blog. Gaming has been a huge part of my life since I was about ten years old. I spent pretty much all of my spare money as a teen-ager on wargames and RPG stuff. Pretty much all of my oldest friends are gamers of one sort or another. My wife is a gamer. So are our kids.

G is for Guilds. Medieval guilds were the trade unions of their day and modern trade unions take a lot of their terminology from guilds. Every RPG setting pretty much has guilds in some form or another that provide a variety of services. The most common and notorious manifestation of this is in the Thieves Guild. Other likely guilds in RPGs include Wizard's guilds and Adventurer's guilds, and those are just for the players to join. Assassin's guilds serve as adventure hooks and nemeses for PCs, although some games have PC assassins too. Merchant's guilds are pretty commonplace, they must be, because they set the prices for goods pretty much throughout the game world right in the Players Handbook :)

I feel like I should give a shout out to gaming guilds too. I don't play any MMOs now, but I did play a lot of the old AOL NWN back in the day. Over the course of my time there I was a member of two different guilds. The first was the extremely newbie friendly "Explorers of the Rising Sun" or ERS. They were pretty much a starter guild in the game, most ERS members left and joined more prestigious guilds of greater antiquity eventually. I left ERS to found the "Steppe Warriors" or SW with my buddy Darryl C. and my girlfriend (now wife) Mona. The Steppe Warriors had a brief but glorious history in NWN, about 18 months after their founding the game was shut down. We stuck together as a group for a long time after, trying out different online games as the MMO market emerged. We have also had several "Steppe Warrior Gatherings" over the years, with varying degrees of participation from the membership as a whole.

G is for Gauls. Historical bad-asses from whom I am descended, they are also the first group of men to migrate to Garnia. In our world they did all manner of awesome stuff, from insulting Alexander the Great to his face, to sacking Rome and Delphi, to planting a long lasting colony in central Turkey. They loved wine and battle and feared nothing.

G is for Garnia. Garnia is both the name of the campaign setting and a nation within the setting, much like Greyhawk is both the setting name and a major city within the world. The Garnia campaign setting is named after my first truly successful D&D character Garn. Garn was a victim of a crazy Monty-Haul/Killer DM campaign run by my buddy that introduced me to both wargaming and D&D Chris G. Chris and I played D&D together with a small group of like minded nerds* for maybe six or seven months the year that I turned eleven. The setting started as a vanity world when Garn achieved godhood in Chris's campaign.

Modern Garnia has been tempered by my higher education and my experience in gaming and bears little resemblance to it's earliest progenitor, except the map, which has stayed largely the same since Darryl remade my earliest maps when we were in 7th or 8th grade. He also worked on some campaign history, which has been largely discarded since**, and drew some maps for various historical periods on graph paper.

In the canonical version of Garnia, the county is a Celtic "kingdom" that keeps recurring. I based this off of Chinese history, where dynasties can lose the "mandate of heaven" and be replaced, either by another native dynasty or by foreigners through invasion. Because they are Celts at their core I have given them a relatively weak central power in their High-Kings. Culture and tradition are the core of their society, not a strong central government. There are various tribes and clans that rule different parts of the country more or less independently and often make war on each other on a small scale. Because the Celts of the world come from all over the real world's Celtic areas and from roughly a millennium of transference to Garnia, and a millennium of cultural development in Garnia, there are various forms of government that have been tried at different times and places in Garnia. Some areas have traditional Gaulish oppida ruled by a council of aristocratic senators, others have petty kings. There are clan chiefs that have more wealth and power than some kings in Garnia. Invasions of barbarian Celts from the north have toppled more than one dynasty and imposed yet another Celtic system of government and aristocratic culture. Essentially, take all that we know about the Celts. All of the Celts from the Iron age Gauls to the Potato Famine Irish from the Gaeltacht and throw them in a blender. Not like a new age Wiccan blender, but a tribal head-hunting, cattle raiding, heroic epic, druid human sacrificing, did you see the movie Wicker Man blender. All the "bad" barbaric pagan stuff along with all the good, fun stuff like art and music.

Garnia map not to scale.

G is for Gambling. Gambling has been a favorite way for PCs to blow off steam and carouse during their off time. It also provides a pretty fun mini-game inside the RPG you are playing. This can be as detailed or as vague as you want, but I am pretty sure that EGG put "Zowie-Slot Variant" in the DMG for a reason.

G is for Good, as the counterpoint for Evil from the other day; Good is also a palpable and real force in my campaign universe. The higher planes are all imbued with "Good"-ness. Creatures from those planes are inherently Good.

G is for Gods. I know most people like to use sanitized RPG gods for their campaigns. I even designed a really crappy pantheon for my Garnia campaign when I was a kid. I stopped doing that and started using real mythology for my campaign, including Christianity. The Christianity in Garnia is the old Celtic variant that was ultimately suppressed by Rome, and is not the primary religion. The primary religion is based around the worship of the old Celtic gods and Jesus is often just added to their number. I don't spend a lot of time going into religion in my campaign, although I easily could, because most people just aren't that interested. Jesus made the cut, because I had a pretty serious Christian player once that wasn't comfortable pretending to be a pagan. I gave it some thought and it made sense for my campaign's continuity, so I went with it.

G is for Gnomes. For the record, I am not a fan of Gnomes. They didn't even exist as a playable race when I started playing. The first I saw of them was in AD&D. I have had exactly one person in all my years of playing D&D make a Gnome character, and then she never played her. I often go back and forth over whether or not I should even include them as a race in Garnia, but have never been forced to make the final decision. I was amused at the minor uproar when I heard they weren't included as a player race in 4th edition.

G is for Grappling. Why can't any edition make a grappling system that simply uses the regular combat rules? Why must they be complex to the point where it's easier to kill a guy than to wrestle him to the ground and pin him?

How about this-

Player-I want to grapple with him!
DM- OK, roll to hit.
Player- 17!
DM- That's a hit, cool. You've got hold of his arm and start pushing him to the ground. He's going to try to break your hold for his turn, roll a 20 sider and add your strength bonus.
DM- He got a 7, he's down.

Regular roll to hit, opposed strength check to maintain. That was simple and off the top of my head.

G is for Grendl. Grendl was mine and Mona's first pet together. I guess it's about time she got a tribute somewhere. She was a black and white house cat. She kind of looked like a dairy cow with a slightly off kilter Charlie Chaplin mustache. I named her Grendel, the spelling was changed by the vet's assistant on her paperwork, because she looked like a monster when my wife found her. We thought she was going to die, but Mona nursed her through the night until we could take her to the vet. She survived and we brought her home where she lived with us and taught me to love cats like I never thought I would. I grew up a dog person, we had cats but I never liked them particularly. My dad had had a cat that he loved, Macho; but I never had loved cats before. Grendl lived a pretty full life with us for about a decade before she suffered a stroke and died shortly afterwards. She is buried under the big maple tree in my back yard now. She has been gone for seven years now and I still miss her.

*Which included a girl. Most of my D&D experiences, from the early days on,have had at least one female gamer at the table, so I never really got that it was a sausage-fest in RPG gaming until I started reading Dragon magazine and listening to other D&D players talking about the lack of women in gaming. Wargames have pretty much always been a boys club, but RPGs haven't in my experience.

**He was constantly having Frodia, his pet country, kick Garnia's ass in major world wars, then resetting the boundaries for the next bout. He wrote maybe a thousand years worth of apocryphal history for the campaign, because I said it would be OK if he filled in some of the more recent back-story events for the setting if he wanted to while I worked on other aspects.