A Long Road

May 26, 2017

Black, oily smoke poured from his nose as he sighed. The view from the end of the pass looked down on the foothills of the Tarthian mountains and seemed to frame the village of Missran perfectly. The steep peaks of the houses, the domed Temple of the Law set into the mountain herself, and the humming of the Machineshrine built on top of their modest Vent. The only reason this town was here.

His pipe hung loosely in his mouth, working around the grimace he carried from the extreme cold of the mountain. The spines of his mecka seemed to twist and grind in the cold lately and the weight bearing on his leg didn’t help. His arm, at least, he could carry in a sling.

He grasped he cart jerked his head a bit to his mecka cart and headed down the winding switchbacks toward Missran, a filmy haze of greasesmoke trailing behind him as if to warn the others out there. The others in the deep pine forests spotted with powerful redwoods that seemed to guard the woods.

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Experience Your Life

May 12, 2017

“No, sir, everything’s been tested thoroughly. Let me explain how it works.”

The Nhanced Awareness clinic was clean and highlighted in comforting greys and blues, with each of the clinicians wearing smart, fitted lab frocks with the Nhance logo emblazoned over their hearts. An example of the device itself, a strange collar looking device with several spines protruding toward its center like a medieval torture device but in medical-grade plastics and platinum alloys, was suspended in a glass case in the center of the waiting room. Around it were hung posters of people enjoying the interface of the device suspended in the air infront of them, a layer of communications and news gently enhancing their everyday life.

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The boxer carefully parried the first punch out of the way and sized up his opponent. Just when another jab came toward his face, he deftly stepped out of the way and followed up with a huge haymaker.

It was easy to dismiss her petite frame and blindness as weaknesses, but combined with her short staff and her training, even the dragon’s bite found only the dirt under her feet. Her stance was strong, her reflexes fast, and her hands moved like water.

His hits weren’t hard, at least at first. His movements weren’t fast, at least at first. He didn’t look strong, at least at first. His opponents were powerful, at least at first.

She knew the honor she was undertaking. She had gone out into the wilds and found a great dire bear and brought it down with only her hands, and a little bit of her head. She had been given the graven axes of her fathers, and their fathers. She could feel the rage welling up inside as she accepted the mantle of Berserker. Read the rest of this entry »

The young elf moves silently, quickly through the Lord’s house. She picks her away around the guards, avoids setting off the Nightingale Floor, and arrives at her destination – the Lord’s treasury. So she kneels down, pulls out her simple tools, and begins to work.

They would never recognize him. As a master spy and confidant to the Prince, he was an expert in disguises. Now, though, with the Empress deposed and the Prince in exile, he needed all of his skills to blend in and find out what had happened.

He always had to fend for himself, ever since the humans came in and killed his parents. He wasn’t the fastest orc, or the smartest, but he was tough and he was good with his fingers. He picked pockets to feed himself and, occasionally, he roughed it out with those who caught him. Hasn’t lost a fight once, but he also doesn’t fight fair.

She cleaned her dagger on the jerkin of the merchant who had refused the Guild’s protection. It’s far too bad that the Merchant’s guild had decided he was worth sacrificing for their petty games. No matter, though – it was simple for her, a single thrust, right between the ribs on his back. No sound, no muss, no fuss.

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From Each Their Ability

September 2, 2016

A plasma spark between my fingers is the first element of the ritual that brings me relief. Then the slow, heavy inhale, the smell of rich pine tar mixed with burning sugar and cinnamon. Now the exhale, the thick black smoke that hangs rudderless in the air above me, waiting for the wind to take it away. Away with the ghosts of the pain in my joints, in my limbs.

The smoke thinned out into a weaving path over the evergreens studding the side of the mountain I was coming down. Like a dark spirit twisting and twining around the trees, searching for a home or hovel to hide in, it wove its way down toward Ikthardan. It’s a small town with no more than a few buildings other than the tall peaked wooden homes common in the Gertan mountains.

This was the last evening of a two week hike through the mountains to come to the town. They had summoned me, asking that I come as soon as I could. I was the closest of my order, and they needed our help before another new moon came and went.

I followed the river of smoke to the large longhouse that stood in the middle of the town, raised up on great oak risers and adorned with the hammers, mizran, and runes of the Order of Law. I rapped twice with my gloved hand and breathed deep, slowly exhaling. Townsfolk can sometimes be trying on my nerves.

A simple boy opened the door, unadorned by anything other than the light tunic and slacks, emblazoned with the small shield of Ikthardan. “Sir? Welcome to Ikthardan, what is your business with the Master of the House?”

I smiled, relieved. Young men are easier than stuffy majordomos or councilors. “I am Vala, I come as I was called. Speak to the Justicar, he will know of me.” I then reached out to him with my mechan hand, holding the forty-link badge of my order. “The Dranchae have come as we have been asked.”

The boy’s eyes widened and he dashed away, yelling for someone named Rozath. Probably the Justicar, the speaker for the Order of Law. The returning footfalls came with a large, barrel-chested man with a thick, braided beard and tightly coiled hair. He was, indeed, wearing a long tabard emblazoned with the mizran of the Law.

“Welcome, Valaryatha. I am Rozath, of the Claeve of Justicars, Lawbringer to this land and servent of the Silver Legions and enforcer of the Mizran, the Laws of the Righteous. We are in grave need of your help, dhallma.”

A samurai plucks arrows from her quiver and looses them toward an enemy before her, peppering the vicious ogre before dropping from her horse, drawing her sword, and moving in for the kill.

Fighting for his life, the gladiator bashes the first swarming goblin with his shield then throws the shield at the next. His sword cleaves a third goblin as he picks up one of their crude spears and uses it to old the mass back as he figures out his next move.

Plumes of smoke erupt from the guns of the small band of musketeers, picking off the flanks of the advancing force of armored knights. They keep in formation, shooting and falling back, until finally the knights number less than they and their swords leap into their hands for the final struggle.

All of these are fighters. Each and every one of them. They all stem from a single, pure ideal. A fantasy of the warrior who is an expert in all forms of warfare and combat. In Dungeons and Dragons, we call that warrior The Fighter.

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To continue discussing the importance of the fantasy in D&D’s design, I’m going to focus on the classes and their impact both in the game and the world the game exists in. Part of the joy and draw of roleplaying games, especially pen and paper roleplaying games, is the theoretical depth of the world they exist in. There’s a living, breathing world behind the heroes’ actions. Since there is a living, breathing world, though, there has to be a place for the heroes’ skills, abilities, and histories in that world. They cannot be entirely divorced from the capabilities of the people around them, and they must represent their power in the story in the mechanics of the game (as the mechanics represent the “physics” of a world, in a way).

Unfortunately, Dungeons and Dragons has always failed on this measure in one way or another. Fifth Edition represents the biggest failure in this fashion.

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