D&D — Aleor Campaign Diary 1: The Night of Fire

(Here is the first of a series of posts retelling the story of my most recent campaign. I’m going to translate this into mostly narrative, but there will be a few D&D terms as well.

If you’d like to read the Lore intro to Aleor, you can catch up on it here.)

Our story begins in a tiny village called Soulrest. Little more than a pitstop, Soulrest is famous for its large inn, being a convenient place to rest for travelers between the region of Eastbend and what remains of the once-great Aloran Empire to the west. The town counts its population in the hundreds here. Everyone knows everyone else, and the most notable thing to happen in the span of a few months is when Ubin, the de-facto mayor, was uncharacteristically nice to some people.

There is no adventuring here. At least, not yet. But at year’s end the town gets excited for their yearly bonfire: a ritual called the Night of Fire. This holiday is held at the top of the ruined tower that overlooks the village, and a great bonfire is lit where townsfolk throw away things they no longer need in preparation for a new year. Jeremy Squips, a traveler from Eastbend, is staying at the inn when he hears about this event. He had planned on continuing on, but decides to stay an extra night so he can enjoy the festivities.

Our players, not yet heroes (or even adventurers by any means), are Balgraff Greyhand, the dwarf blacksmith, Sieg Warsen, son of the inkeeper, and Buck Holder, son of the cobbler.

Many of the townsfolk gather at the top of the old tower. Ubin has lit the huge bonfire, and its height allows it to be seen for miles. Then, one by one, the people go up to Ubin’s large red orb, touch it, then throw something into the fire. Not everyone does this, but a good many folk do. Jeremy chimes in with a bit of music to add to the festivities. Buck is given a box by his father to throw in. He doesn’t know what was inside, but he takes it. As soon as he touches the orb, it cracks, and for a moment everything stops. Ubin rushes up to him, but when he inspects the orb, there doesn’t seem to be any missing or sharp pieces, and Buck appears unharmed. The wise old elf appears clueless, but Buck swears he saw him nod to himself ever so slightly.

The Night continues until a loud explosion centered in town fills the air. They look to see the Happy Camper, the local general store, going up in flames. Everyone bursts into action, but none are as quick to act as Buck, Sieg, Balgraff, and Jeremy. They hasten down the hill and start doing all they can to fight the fire, throwing water pails at it and smothering it with whatever they can find.

When all is said and done, the fire is put out, but not before it destroyed the town’s beloved store. The smithy and inn were on both sides of the Happy Camper, and they sustained a bit of damage on their own. It’s a bad start to the new year, and to top it all off, Jeremy comments that he saw hooded figures running into the nearby forest immediately after the explosion…

To be continued…

Me — April ’19 Update

I feel as though I have some big decisions down the line. I’m not necessarily going through a lot at the moment, and my life isn’t particularly stressful, but my path is nearing a precipice, or perhaps a simple fork. The thing is, the choice that I make in the nearing future is going to impact the rest of my life.

But before we get into that, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, D&D, and other things.

Once again I feel as though the blog is in a good spot. Twice a week is a great pace for somebody whose writer’s block has become mentally crippling. No changes on the horizon.

On that front, I’ve been sort of working on a story for the passion project I’ve been collaborating with, and even that has proven to be an insurmountable slope. So far, in 10 days, I’ve written two different beginnings, each roughly 400 words long, and the story is simply supposed to showcase a piece of worldbuilding, nothing even largely important or exciting, really. I did recently write nearly 8,000 words in a month (not staggering by any means, but with a mental block as powerful as mine’s become, I was pretty proud of it.) I was able to do that because I was given very strict time limits to adhere to when I wrote each scene, and was held accountable for it. As it turns out though, I cannot self-impose similar time limits on my own projects, because I know that there won’t be any consequences if I fail. I know there’s a workaround in my head somewhere, I just don’t know what it is yet.

As far as gaming goes I’ve been playing a lot of World of Warcraft lately, but almost purely as a time sink as I mindlessly kill monsters, because…

I’ve once again picked up The Dresden Files. This is my second time going through the series, as Jim Butcher is nearing the end of Peace Talks and I’m optimistic that we will (finally) get a release date in the coming months.

I’ll hold off on the school topic because it ties into decisions.

D&D has been going quite well. Buckle your seat belts. The Knights of Fire (the party in my Aleor campaign officially has a name!) has just left the city of Craydon to venture into ancient Elven ruins for… reasons. I make no promises, but I intend to start posting a campaign diary of all that’s happened very soon. Perhaps even starting Saturday.

The other campaign I’m a part of (as a player, not a DM) just ended, and my character was the only one that died in the final boss encounter. The poor orc mystic only ever wanted to be a tree, sleeping on dirt and meditating as often as possible, and only in death did he get his wish, having helped save the world! I will note that this is basically the first ever campaign I’ve been a part of that we played start to finish consistently, even coming to a natural end. It wasn’t until our DM gave us the epilogue and one of the player characters visited Ki’s grave that I got a little sentimental. That campaign was very much a “silly over rules”, and neither our characters nor the plot had any depth, and I didn’t really like the mystic class, and we’re planning on starting a new campaign soon, and I might be more excited than I’ve ever been for my new character, and yet, I can’t help but feel a little sad that the story of Ki and his friends is over, doomed to fade into obscurity as new campaigns and new characters take to the stage.

*Pause for dramatic effect*

So, other things. At risk of getting too personal, I’ve grown to actively dislike my living situation. Specifically, I have never once in my life had my own room, and therefore have never really known a true sense of privacy or ownership of my own space. Most often this is fine. The brother I share a room with has the same interests as me and now that we aren’t kids anymore we get along great. The problem is that our lifestyles are very different and not conducive to sharing a space. Added onto that is the fact that I do not like living in Southern California, primarily because of the living cost and lack of weather. As such, I’ve been seriously considering and making tentative, mental plans to move north, to Oregon or Washington. My trip to Portland felt in a lot of ways like I had found a home, and I’m desperate to go back.

However. There is an increasing likelihood that I’m going to be staying in SoCal for a bit longer. I have to take an extra semester of school, as I’ve previously established, and that alone sets me back a year. What’s more, my job may “require” me to step up my hours, as we’re going to be short handed soon and since I like working there, I’m more than happy to give them a hand and return to working full-time. In addition to that, there is a possibility I might be teaching improv more seriously next school year, and I have confidence that the passion project I’ve been working on will have legs to stand on by the end of the year. All of these are heavy incentives to stay, and I like the prospect of pretty much all of those things.

And yet, if I do stay here, part of me feels like I’m delaying a transition to a new life I would be much happier living. New friends, new job, new everything. Scary, yes, but I’m not really one to let something like that get in the way. My problem is that I know I need to move in order to preserve my sanity. Moving within the area I live might solve some problems, but the larger issues of living in Southern California would remain and would delay what I believe to be an inevitable migration northwards.

I feel as though I can’t win, because choosing one means losing out on a lot of things the other option yields. The nice thing about this situation is that both options are promising, and I’m not picking the lesser of two evils, and in addition to that, this choice is only presenting itself now, and I won’t be required to make any life changing decisions for a few months at least.

Until next time!

D&D — Aleor, A Shattered Empire

I’m gearing up for a diary of my current D&D campaign, as we’ve just finished our 12th session and have spent roughly 40 hours in this world. Before telling the story of some lowly commoners, though, I thought: what better place to start than with an overview of the world?

 

Our story begins in the region of Aleor, named after the once-great empire that tamed much of the southwest portion of the large continent of Irumos. At its peak, the Aloran Empire spanned thousands of miles, and its growth was only hindered by deserts to the south, mountains to the north, and a vast chasm to the east.

At that point, the empire had consumed virtually every sovereignty in the region, but to refer to the Aloran Empire’s golden age as a time of peace would be a gross simplification of the details. When the Empire annexed lands into its controls, the laymen were largely unaffected, as the taxes they paid often remained consistent. Their lords, however, were then required to pay taxes of their own to their new kings, and so on to the Emperor themselves. This often bred conflict between local lords and kings, and the empire rarely intervened so long as it meant that they were getting their taxes.

But even beyond the infighting of men, the other forces of the world are always at work in Aleor, some more mysterious and more malevolent than others. The northern city of Dûnmarch fell prey to these forces in a sudden and violent eruption. In a matter of hours, what was once a bustling city built at the pinnacle of the Drowsy Peaks became an abandoned ruin in the deepest crevice of a fresh cavern at the mountain range’s base. A few short years later, what was once a small rain forest exploded into a voracious jungle, growing and overgrowing everything in its path, consuming the Lockjaw Peninsula despite the best efforts of the tens of thousands of people that lived in that region, including the capital city itself.

Hundreds of years later, the Aloran Empire is still prevalent, though it is a mere shadow of its former self. Its new capital is Ashfall to the the north, and though the city is one of the largest in Aleor, the empire itself has little influence on matters more than a few hundred miles outside of it. And though much the the region’s largest cities have fallen and returned to the wilds, new cities are forged. Aqila, the city of craft and magic, is now one of the leading centers of power in the region, rivaling Ashfall and Port Artellis to the south.

Much remains hidden about Aleor’s past, as the civilized world has only recently been starting to get back on its feet. Dark times threaten to persist, and there are forces that threaten to destroy everything now that there is no mighty empire to protect the people. With a little help, though, perhaps new fires can be forged to shine a light into that darkness. After all, one of the major themes for the campaign in this new setting is simple.

Reclamation.

Bonus — Critical Role Animated Series Kickstarter

Hey everyone! For those who don’t know, Critical Role (a weekly D&D livestream) is hosting a Kickstarter project to fund an animated special of their D&D game. It’s already way, way overfunded, but just for the fun of it I did some number crunching for the projections of how much money the project is likely to end up with. Here’s the post:

I like numbers and stats, so I did some number crunching for the projections for the Kickstarter project. As I’m writing this, we’re nearing $6,000,000 raised. Having recently overtaken MST3K for the 15th most funded Kickstarter projects (and the #1 film project).

But with over 40 days left to go, we still have lots of time to chug along for new goals and new records… We just got our new target of $7,500,000, and the last goal will probably be close to 9 or 10 million at this rate… So where are we headed? Well, here is the current Top 10 most funded projects, a list Vox Machina is soon to terrorize.

(TL;DR at the bottom if numbers scare you)

Most Funded Kickstarters of All Time:

  1. Pebble Time — $20,340,000

  2. Coolest Cooler — $ 13,290,000

  3. Pebble 2 — $12,780,000

  4. Kingdom Death: Monster — $12,390,000

  5. Pebble E-Paper Watch — $10,270,000

  6. Travel Jacket — $9,190,000

  7. Exploding Kittens — $8,780,000

  8. OUYA — $8,600,000

  9. 7th Continent — $7,070,000

  10. Everyday Backpack — $6,570,000

Even if we made the next stretch goal and nothing else, we’d still already hit #9, and the Kickstarter would have raised 10x the original goal.

But I know what you’re thinking… There’s no way we’re getting anywhere near the top of that list, right? Surely we’ll run out of steam soon. Well… yeah, we’re going to slow down… but with how much time we still have left, even smaller numbers will have lots of impact.

So let’s do some projections, shall we?

08:27 PST: $5,892,000 Funded

Day 1: $3,550,000

Day 2: $1,180,000

Day 3: $920,000

Average Pledge Per Backer: $137

Right now we’re averaging $1,470,000 per day. Now, if you know anything about Kickstarter, you know that that number is not going to hold firm. Most of the funding usually happens on Day 1 and slows down drastically after that. But (just for fun,) if we did maintain that momentum… we’d end up with over $65,000,000. Almost enough to buy the next 5 most funded projects. That’s also enough to outweigh the GDP of some countries.

But that’s stupid, ain’t no way we’re going to hold those numbers. So let’s start with some healthy optimism. At $500,000 per day, we’ll end up with $26,700,000. Which would be most funded by a considerable margin. $500,000 per day is a lot, to be sure, but it’s also just over half of the worst day so far, and to compare, we’ve already raised over $200,000 on Day 4, and it’s only been roughly 9 hours.

If we instead hit a target of $350,000 per day, we’ll end up with $20,400,000… which would still be the most funded Kickstarter, but only barely. I’d say this number is the most likely here. Looking at charts from previous Kickstarters, that seems to be a good number. In my not-so-professional opinion, I’d say that’s doable, even with no more pledges over $750.

Also, we’ve had ~14,000 people pledge every day, at an average of $137. The pledge average will start to go down a bit because there’s no more super expensive ones, but even so…

If 1,460 people pledge the current average of $137 (barely 1/10th of our current daily average of backers), we’ll hit $200,000 per day. At that rate, the project will end up with $14,100,000. We’re not #1 anymore, but we do sit at #2 pretty comfortably.

But even if we only get half those numbers… At $100,000 a day for 42 more days, we’re still left with $9,930,000. Not quite #5 on the charts, but pretty good nonetheless.

Also, let’s not forget… the cast hasn’t even advertised the live Kickstarter on the show yet… We’ll undoubtedly get a little bit of a boost from that (though my guess is that it’ll be pretty minuscule with the numbers we already have.)

Edit: Alternatively, if we base these numbers off rate decay rather than a daily average, extending the 77% decay from Day 2 to Day 3 would total $8,730,000. (According to u/ChanceTheKnight). It’s very safe to say the KS will get at least that much.

TL;DR:

The Legend of Vox Machina is on track to hit Top 5 Most Funded… pretty easily, too. Meaning a full Briarwood Arc is looking pretty good. $7.5 Mil target will probably be hit tomorrow.

Here’s how much money the project will end up with at the following rates.

At $500,000 per day: $26,700,000 (#1 Most Funded)

At $350,000 per day: $20,400,000+ (STILL #1 Most Funded, and also my guess for roughest final estimate)

At $200,000 per day: $14,100,000+ (#2 Most Funded)

At $100,000 per day: $9,930,000+ (#6 Most Funded)

With 77% decay: $8,700,000 (#8 Most Funded)

(Source: Kicktraq. Neat tool for number crunchers like me.)

Me — March ’19 Update

We’re already chugging along through 2019, and I think we’re at the point where 2019 doesn’t quite feel new, but (at least for me), it doesn’t feel like anything has really happened, either. Which is a bit surprising, because there’s been a lot of new and interesting things going on.

So let’s jump on in with the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Not much to say about the current state of the blog. I’m pretty happy with where it is right now, forcing me to write regularly but not often enough to be oppressive. That said, I might want to be upping the content come summer. More on that in a bit.

As you probably know, I don’t really have a whole lot going on writing wise. That story I posted last week was one of my first forays into the world I’ve been working on with some friends, but since that’s a collaborative project, I don’t like to talk about it much. I will say that we plan to have stuff to present some time this year, though, and when that day comes you bet your butt I’m going to be talking about it here. Apart from that, I’m working on that full length Lisa Stenton play for school. Have I mentioned that on the blog? Well, now I have. It’s still in a very rough draft and nowhere near at the level in which I can show to anybody (the public especially), but it’s coming along, which is exciting. That’s pretty much all I’m working on at the moment.

I don’t feel like I’ve been playing pretty much anything lately. I pretty much get home from work or school, try and fail taking a nap, and then work on whatever needs to be done. When I do have actual free time, though, I usually watch videos while casually playing Heroes of the Storm or Hearthstone. I haven’t even been playing on the Switch lately, which makes me feel a little bad, but I know I’ll get my hours in with time. Also, my brother and I have been dedicating a few hours every other week to playing classic games, which has been fun because we’ve been narrating characters to each other in silly voices. Right now we’re going through Secret of Mana, which has been a blast. I’d say “expect a review on that soon”, but I’m realizing I’ve been saying that a lot lately and have yet to review anything in 2019. Oh well.

Listening, though. I’ve been listening to a lot of Day9 and Critical Role. Those two channels combined produce about a dozen hours a week, which is more than the amount of free time I can spend watching YouTube, so that’s pretty much all the media I’ve been consuming. Haven’t listened to podcasts or audiobooks in months, but I’m sure I’ll binge on stuff a few months from now to catch up.

As far as school goes, I mentioned last month that this would be my last semester. Well, that’s not happening. One of the classes I needed got cancelled, and there’s no way around it beyond taking an extra semester. For one class. So all my plans for picking up a second job after this semester and saving up have kind of gone out the window. Sucks, but can’t do anything about it now, so there’s no use dwelling on it.

Craydon Map.png

Second-to-lastly, D&D is going great. I just finished my first full city, Craydon, which took about 10 hours of work to build. It houses roughly 18,000 people, complete with about a dozen factions, shops, and lots of events and secrets to uncover. The Aleor campaign is going great. I will one day post a campaign diary of the story. When I get around to it.

So, that last thing. I’ve been considering finding a feasible way to take commissions on story writing. Like, fanfiction, micro fiction, writing prompts, whatever. It’s something I could certainly do, but the only thing would be monetizing it in a way that actually provides me with an income. People would need to know and have read my work for that to be any sort of business plan at all, which is not something I can magically make happen. It would be a good hobby for a bit of extra change, but it’s not on my radar just yet. I need to give it some more thought first.

Me — My Goal in Life

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how often people reformulate what they want their life to amount to. The end of the road. The “I’ve made it”. I’d never really had concrete plans, as for the longest time the goal had just been “get real good at worldbuilding and then write some books”. Well, if you really know me then you’d know that I don’t have any real, serious dreams/hopes of ever writing books as a career. I’m just never as interested in the characters as I am with the scope of the world itself.

But even at that point of my life, my true goal has always simply been ‘happiness’. I mean, I’d say that’s everyone’s goal whether they realize it or not. To me, it doesn’t matter what my life ends up being as long as I get to a point where I’m not twiddling my thumbs wishing things were different. Do I expect to ever get to a point like that? Maybe not, but I’d like to get as close to that as possible.

Still, I had never thought about what that life looks like. Obviously, I can’t predict the future and I know my life will change in unimaginable ways, but I think it’s still worth exploring the ideal future the current Kollin would like, and for all the introspection I do in my day-to-day life, it’s a little surprising I had never given it more thought until now.

So here it is.

I have a stable career working on story structure and planning for some big game a la Overwatch or World of Warcraft, or perhaps I’m the main story writer for some smaller company. Maybe the story I’m working on is in a world I helped build from scratch. It’s a steady job, something that keeps me living well within my means but doesn’t allow for extravagances (I’m never going to be the person that takes yearly vacations around the world). I probably also live in Oregon or Washington, because it’s gorgeous up there and doesn’t get nearly as hot.

I’ve got a wife and maybe some kids (2 or 3 or none at all), and every week we invite my brothers and maybe one or two other friends to our awesome game room (where most of my expendable income goes) and play Dungeons & Dragons. I have appropriate monster miniatures at the ready and have been playing the game and practicing long enough to tell crazy cool stories with fun adventures, complete with interesting character voices I fully commit to. Perhaps I even play D&D twice a week so I can play with all the people I want to play with (or heck, I might even be running the fabled West Marches campaign.

I wake up just past dawn every morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, because I go to bed earlier than most people. I enjoy the privacy of every quiet morning with a hot cup of tea.

That’s it. That’s all I want. I’m not optimistic I’ll ever have half of those things all at the same time, but hey. Ideals.

D&D — The Moments You Play For

In the Aleor campaign I’ve been running the past couple of months, things have been pretty slow. Not to say that stuff has been boring or uninteresting, just that the game started off small, and has been taking it’s time getting anywhere—by design.

Before Session Zero, I referred to this game as the “Commoner Campaign”, based off a .pdf I found outlining a level zero type character class. (A link for the curious.) All the players started out as being pitifully weak, in their hometown of about 200 people, you get the idea. I had to be careful with designing encounters because fighting 3 kobolds simultaneously could be very dangerous and kill them if they weren’t cautious.

It took them 6 sessions to become actual adventurers, and roughly half of that time was spent being lost in a huge forest, so things have been tough. I had a lot of trouble designing interesting encounters day after day when the party was in the same forest on a week to week basis, and anything scarier than a simple boar would make combat risky.

But I think it was worth it, because at the end of our most recent session, the party reached their first proper city. I set a very specific song to accompany my description as I outlined the view of a civilization beyond what the characters could even comprehend. The gentle slope of the city nestled in the banks of a vast lake allowed for a breathtaking view of the city of humans and elves. Rows upon rows of houses, many taller than they had ever seen before, stretching out for about a mile. Dozens of people bustled about the streets, even as the sun was starting to set, with kids running up and down and bumping into one of the players as he chased after his friend.

I can’t properly explain why, but of the 7 3-hour sessions we’ve had, that moment was the most fun I’ve had DM’ing this campaign so far. It’s silly to say, but maybe it’s because that’s the moment where I’ve felt more like Matt Mercer than ever before, or maybe I like the feeling of swinging the doors open and saying “Surprise!”, or maybe it’s the writer in me that likes describing cool scenes.

I think that as a player, the moments I live for are huge, plot changing moments that occur because of something I did—a choice I made or an action I took that had a huge impact on the world. When you’re the DM, all of your choices impact the world, so it’s not as big of a deal, which means it’s harder to pinpoint what exactly I’m trying to accomplish.

Either way, I have a city to build now, and I didn’t realize until after I described it that I’ve never made a map (or fully built) a settlement to this scale before. Craydon is a proper city of (my pre-build estimates) ~20,000 people, making it a sizable monument in a fantasy world; not enormous by any means, but a city to be sure.

It’s going to be some time before I have another one of those moments. I’m going to try my best not to wait until they get to the next big city and make the reveal be the same style of thing, and to be honest, I have no idea if my players had as much fun arriving at Craydon as I did, but hey, a dungeon master should allow themselves to have fun, too.