D&D — Campaign as Storytelling

Hello again, friends. It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Dungeons & Dragons directly (or at least not something that had a specific correlation to my Aleor campaign), and I’ve been having some thoughts I’d like to share.

Obviously, I’m a storyteller. I’ve been writing for about a decade now, so I theoretically know my way around a plot. It’s been interesting to explore plot development through what I would consider to be my first real experience as a dungeon master. Aleor isn’t the first campaign setting I’ve done, but it was made to be in the world of D&D, and is built to be a ‘world’ much more than a place for stories to exist in.

The problem with that last part is that I still want those stories to happen. I have visions. Dreams, if you will, of amazing scenes and climactic moments to share with my players. Before the campaign even started I had an inkling of an encounter involving the three party members fighting alongside (or as?) good-aligned dragons against a big bad. Part of the problem with cool ideas like that is that I can still do that in this campaign, but the location that encounter would happen in hasn’t even been mentioned in passing to the players. As in, they aren’t geographically close enough to have even heard of that place.

Now, I know you’re just going to yell at me to move that encounter closer if I want it so damn bad, but there’s the rub. Aleor is a world full of cultures, and that location was built with that encounter in mind, and simply moving three powerful dragons to another place in the world just because it is more conveniently timed on my part would ruin the entire pacing of the story. They are only level 5 at the moment, after all. Level 5 characters don’t get to be allied with powerful dragons.

But the thing that frustrates me quite a bit is that the current arc of the campaign—the story they are wading through right now—has some really cool moments and scenes I’ve been looking forward to for months, and I want nothing more than to skip to the good parts. But I can’t. Things need to take time in order to make the narrative flow well, and in order to give those moments the most impact.

It’s a little sad, because I obviously want to make the “in-between” sessions and encounters interesting and meaningful. I’m very leery of turning the campaign into “The Encounter of the Week”, just stringing combats together and arbitrarily throwing suitable creatures at the party to fill in the time.

I don’t care what’s guarding the door, but I can’t wait to reveal what’s behind the door. Problem is, if I don’t make that guard interesting (not powerful—interesting), then the reveal will just be neat rather than amazing.

D&D should be about the fun moments you create and the stories you tell afterward. I’m trying so hard to tell interesting stories, I just get so impatient!

D&D — Why Do You Play?

Dungeons & Dragons means a lot of different things to different people. It might mean wish fulfillment of getting to be your own Mary Sue. Maybe it means number crunching and being as powerful as you can be (which is wish fulfillment in its own right). Maybe it means escaping reality by doing good and saving the princess. Or maybe it just means hanging out with friends.

I think everyone comes to role-playing games like D&D because it’s the ultimate sandbox in a lot of ways. Depending on who your dungeon master is, the only think limiting your abilities is your creativity—you can do what you want, as long as it’s not impossible within the rules of the world (which may or may not coincide with the rules of the game). “Choices are infinite—consequences are mandatory”.

For me, D&D is about two things. I love the escapism it provides in allowing me to pretend to be people wildly different from myself, and since I’m a storyteller at heart, it also lets me feel like I’m part of a crazy adventure in a fantasy novel than simply writing one.

I feel as though I’m in a weird minority in the community. The vast majority of people I’ve interacted with in regards to D&D aren’t (particularly) interested in the story, or when they are, it’s always in the framework of their character. For me, the story and the character are often two separate entities entirely. I built a character that is fun to pretend to be, not one that has an intricate backstory that has strong connections to the world they live in.

I have a few friends that with whom I share D&D stories on a regular basis. I’ve certainly considered inviting them to the game that I run, but deep down I know that they wouldn’t have any fun. At its current state, the Aleor campaign is a lot of talking to normal townsfolk rather than an epic adventure of heroes and villains, and I can’t accommodate a player who wants to be a Jedi.

Finding the D&D group that you mesh with is tough. Since everyone’s playing for different reasons, the obvious, most accessible group to you may not be the best one for you. It may not even be the right one, and since the type of person to be playing the game tends to be the sort of person who doesn’t make a habit of socializing with strangers, it becomes very difficult to find the perfect fit, because for you that perfect fit might only be online with the help of meetup groups like Roll20.

For me, Critical Role is the pinnacle, most ideal version of what D&D could be. Other streams are entertaining, but in my experience, none of them are stories being told the same way that Critical Role is. If I wanted to mess around and goof off at a table with a bunch of friends, there are dozens of different board games we could play with way less effort. Dungeons & Dragons is the only one that allows me to alter my identity.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 4

More voice acting sample monologues with which to practice silly voices! I’m writing these for D&D, but you can use them however you’d like. If you’d like me to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

Previous posts can be found herehere, and here.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Optimistic Adventurer:
    I believe that an adventure should be more than killing a dragon and taking its treasure. The journey is more important than the destination, as they say. It isn’t the dragon the heroes defeat. It is the wonderful places they go, the friends they make, and the moments they share along the way. It’s the one-too-many pints of ale in the rundown tavern. The soft whistles of an undetected dart trap. The thankful smiles of the people helped along the way.

    I want to dance to every song I hear and tell a spooky story at every campfire I have. I know it won’t all be fun and games, but I think life can sometimes be most precious when it is at its most trying. I can tell that it isn’t my purpose to lie and wait for destiny to find me—I have to go and make my own, and even if I can’t solve every problem I’m faced with, I want happiness to follow in my wake as best as I am able, like sunflowers in the thick of spring.

    Life is what you make it, and I want mine to be like the ones told in fairy tales.

 

  • Surfer Bro, doesn’t have a care in the world:
    Well well well, if it isn’t my main man! What is up my dudes? How’s it going? I see you have a few tag-alongs this time around, that’s cool. It’s all chill, man. Listen, I know the last one I sold you wasn’t so hot, but I got a buddy of mine that says he’ll sell you a boat for eighty gold. This guy is the real deal, I swear. Matter of fact, he patched it up himself. Got a full mast and a working rudder and everything. And I know what you’re gonna say. You don’t want to pay that much money after the last time we talked, I get it, that’s chill. But hear me out. I like you guys, you really did me a solid by saving me from those thugs a few months back. So here’s the thing. I’ll front twenty gold to help you pay for it, and if it blows up, no big deal, that money is yours. If you like it, next time you’re in town you just pay me the rest of the dough and everything is solid. You guys game?

 

  • Ogre/Giant. Not too bright:
    Lookie here, Enk! We got a little peoples tryna sneak by! Says his name is… whadya say it was again? Nunya? Stupid peoples and their stupid names. What should we do wif em? I’m still kinda full from the last ones we ate. Maybe we could ask em to stay so we can eats em later? Whadya say little peoples? Do you wanna stay around so we can eat y—uh, I mean, we won’t eat you, oh hey. Where’d he go? …Enk, I lost the little peoples. I think the bugger ran off while you was distracting me. Shut up next time, okay? We almost tricked em!

 

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.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 3

I’m having a lot of fun writing these voice acting monologues, so I’m just gonna keep doing it! Previous two posts can be found here and here! As usual, I’m going to try to keep these gender neutral and vague so they can be practiced with a myriad of voices. Feel free to use these at your leisure, and if you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Naive youngster:
    I just don’t understand why people can be so mean sometimes. I know it’s not a big deal, and it wasn’t really any of my business, but today when I was walking down the Green Row I saw a bunch of kids bullying one of the shop owners. One of those small-time guys that barely has a stall of peaches to sell. He wasn’t bothering anyone, he was just trying to live his life and these kids come up and toss all his peaches into the street! I didn’t want to make any more of a scene, and those kids probably would have just beat me up if I stepped in, but I just can’t believe how cruel people can be. I mean it’s not like they got anything out of being mean, they just did it to ruin that guy’s day. Whatever. I’ll get over it. I’m going to go find a cat to pet.

 

  • Eloquent Elf:
    Greetings, friends. Welcome to the Embassy of Glass. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Feel free to make yourselves at home here, take a walk amongst the fauna, if you so wish. I might caution you away from any of the flowers that look too pleasant, though, these gardens cultivate a number of carnivorous plants, and it would be inconvenient to ruin any perfectly good specimens in order to rescue you. Also, if you please, be mindful of the stones you tread upon. These walkways were built from stones of the Feywild, and a number of them don’t take kindly to being stepped on if they aren’t acquainted with your feet.  Don’t worry too much, though, the more irritable ones are few and far between, and I’ve taken care to place them outside the typical areas of foot traffic. Enjoy your stay.

 

  • Amiable Barkeep:
    Hey, how goes it? It’s always a nice change of pace to see some new faces around here. Oh, wait a minute. You must be the adventurers from Wakefield I’ve heard about. Everyone’s been talking about you! I shouldn’t do this, but the first round will be on the house, okay? Don’t be shy, don’t be shy. Here, stay a while and let’s have a chat about the news from outside. There’s been talk about increased fey presence in the woods, you know. Apparently they’ve been getting aggressive and coming closer to settlements. Is that true? I’ve got a boy that works down at the mill just outside town, and I’ve been getting a bit worried, to be honest. Oh, there I go again, talking about me. Here, I’ll shut up… So, got any fun stories?

 

  • Dragonborn Oracle (enunciating the ‘s’ sound):
    You come to me seeking answers to your quest to attain peace? Your kind is so foolish. Always pretending you want peace but only starting new fires once you succeed in putting the old ones out. No, you will find no answers from me, humans. Like everyone else that shares your blood you seem to be lost in your delusions that I owe you something when you have only just set foot in my home unannounced. It is as though the world is built to accommodate you and to bend to your every whim. I have helped you one too many times, and you shall find no more assistance from me. In fact, you can—wait. What is that you wear on your arm? …it has been some time since I’ve seen those markings. The influence of the Grovewardens does not often reach this far south, but it is a pleasant sight to see. Fine. I will answer one question, but then you must leave, and quickly.

 

Bonus (This is a snippet from a short story I wrote):

  • Excited Fairy:
    Oh, right. Old Lady Picnic. Anyways, she sits down under the tree I’m in and takes out a little blanket from her basket. She unfolds it and lays it on the grass. It’s this cute pink and white quilt patterned with baby elephants and rabbits. Stars above it was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. She probably made it herself! I would never sit on something like that. A work of art like that should never be laid on the grass. But she put it there and started taking out food. Bananas, tiny sandwiches, potato salad, and a gorgeous apple cinnamon pie, and in that moment I knew that if that pie was half as good as it looked and smelled, I would die a happy fairy, wings earned or no. Have you ever felt like that? Where you’re so sure of something that hasn’t happened yet? What am I saying, of course you haven’t.

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 2

In my last post I mentioned how I have a hard time finding good pieces of dialogue to practice voice acting on—for fantasy character archetypes in particular. Well, I’m continuing the series, and I foresee even more of these posts in the future. Feel free to use at your leisure. If you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Grumpy Old Man:
    What are you lowlifes doing in my fields traipsing all over my petunias?! You’re going—oh. Don’t tell me. You’re adventurers, aren’t you. Always the adventurers that come around here bringing trouble with no regard for the working folk around them. You’re probably going to ask me about the Lost Cave of Cadavra. Only reason your type comes this way. It’s about a mile north of here, but you better make sure your affairs are in order if you mean to go that way. I send a group of travelers that way once every few months, and none of them have come back yet, so I can only imagine what horrible beasties are lurking in there. Now get out of here, and watch the petunias!

 

  • Demon Lord:
    Mortals of Aleor: behold my visage and tremble! For I, Thruz’kel, once again set foot on this realm. This time, no power of man or god can stop me—all shall lie broken beneath my feet. Even now my legions lay siege upon your cities like the surging tide of the sea. Bow before me, and I may yet spare your miserable lives. Resist, and you shall know suffering the likes of which have never been dreamed. The end is nigh. Embrace or resist: it is of little consequence to me. This realm will be as ash before the next moon rises.

 

  • Tiny Sidekick. Never been sure of anything in their life:
    Oh, dear. You’re, um… you’re going to go fight the demons? Oh, well, umm… okay. That’s very brave. Umm… Would you maybe… umm… no… Okay, yes. Would you, uh, maybe consider… umm… bringing me along? I know I’m not, uh… as strong, but… umm… it’s my home, too, and, and, umm… I want to help. Even though it’s really scary! I don’t know if I could… uh, fight demons all by myself, but… umm… with you and me together, they won’t stand a chance, right? Umm… I mean… if you want, to. I don’t want to… you know, umm… be too pushy… I won’t come if you don’t want me to, but, um, if you want me to, uh, we can beat them!

 

  • Merchant. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer:
    Hey, how’s it going? Come to buy some masks for the festival tonight? I’ve got a variety of wares. Made them myself you know. Cotton, wood, resin, you name it. You folks look like the type to be looking for more exotic masks. Don’t deny it! I can see that look in your eye. Yeah, you, the tall one. I see one has caught your fancy. Oh! You must be eyeing the dragon mask. Rather perceptive I see. That one’s the best of the bunch! Took me a full week’s work to make it, you know. Those are real dragon horns affixed to a nice resin. I wanted to use real dragon scales, but it made the thing far too heavy. Now, I won’t lie to you, that one’s the most expensive of the batch, but I’ll make you folks a deal. If you tell people where you got that mask, I’ll give you a bargain of 500 gold pieces, what do you say?

 

Any character archetypes you’d like some samples for? Let me know and I’ll include them in the next post!

Voice Acting — Fantasy Script Samples 1

Any time I try to look up bits of dialogue to practice interesting voices on, I’m always disappointed because I invariably end up with ad copies (commercial scripts) or cheesy dialogue from anime 20 or more years old. So you know what? I’ll do it myself, internet. Thanks for nothing. Feel free to use at your leisure. Here are the first four, with more to come in the future.

(Obviously you can do different voices than what I have labeled for each paragraph, I just made labels and wrote dialogues based on them.)

  • Shady thief-type. Face is probably covered in shadows:
    “A little birdie told me you were headed for the Swindler’s Claw. Dangerous place if you don’t know the right folks. If you’ve got the coin I can take you there. I’ll introduce you to some colleagues of mine. Just don’t make the mistake thinking that anyone you meet around those parts is trustworthy. Half the town would shiv you as soon as look at you, the other half will just pickpocket you. The good news is, if you give me your coin now, you won’t have to worry about misplacing it when we get there.”

 

  • Lord of the Realm. A valiant hero everyone respects:
    “This is a daunting quest you speak of. As far as I’m aware, there have been none brave or foolish enough to venture into the Sundered Wastes in ten years. I’m afraid I must decline your request for a detachment of my guard to accompany you. For as noble a goal as this is, I simply do not have the disposable resources for such a task. I’m afraid you’ll have to go alone. Still, I would never hear the end of it if my son caught word that I left you empty handed after all you’ve done. Here, take my signet ring. It bears the emblem of House Raidell, and can serve to protect you in times of dire need. I bid you a safe journey and a speedy return.”

 

  • Sword-master who’s getting too old for this:
    “There is no weapon made by man or elf that can harm the likes of Thaleus. His control over the darkness has grown too absolute. the only way to stop him is to shatter the crystal atop his staff. That crystal is the true source of his power, but it is also his greatest weakness. If you’re clever, you can find a way to separate him from his power. Without that crystal he is no more powerful than any typical conjurer. Now go! Time is of the essence, my friends. Thaleus grows more powerful with each passing minute. And remember—take the staff, then break the crystal. Only then can you defeat him.”

 

  • Evil Wizard. Might be nasally, but could instead be quite sinister:
    “It’s a shame you’ve come so far in your quest only to be defeated at the hands of mere pawns! Who do you fools think you are, anyway? That minotaur skeleton was hard to find, you know. He was my favorite, and for that you’ll pay dearly! Come to think of it, I do seem to be short a few undead servants now. How would you like to join the ranks of my minions? It won’t be so bad. You’ll never have to eat, sleep, or contemplate your meaningless existence ever again! Oh, what am I saying, you don’t have a choice! Now, hold still and I’ll only make this hurt to a moderate degree.”

 

Future dialogues to come! If you’d like to add some to my list I would be happy to include them in the next post.

  • Grumpy Old Man:
  • Demon Lord:
  • Tiny Sidekick. Never been sure of anything in their life:
  • Smallfolk. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer: