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Crumbling UpKeep: Gifting the Players Secrets

   One of the most common new DM mistakes is gifting the players too much treasure. I’ve often seen someone bemoaning high powered low level characters after they had too much magic heaped upon them. Its an easy thing to do, as giving a character a new toy makes the player momentarily happy. It hits that instant reward trigger that many MMORPGs rely upon.

   When players are running around with Vorpal swords at level 3, however, the campaign can be quickly derailed and  the intangible rewards you are giving to fictional characters being to lose their appeal. When they already have the best things, where do you go from there? How do you make appropriate encounters? The characters are still comparatively weak fleshy meat puppets, but they are walking around with cannons. It is not an easy mess to get out of.

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Crumbling UpKeep: “Its been a while,” or Splitting the Party Long Term

   Once upon a time, in a D&D campaign long, long ago, I came to a dilemma. The party I was GMing for managed to ingest some poisoned food. Half of them failed their saves and ended up passed out and drugged. The other half managed to fight their way out of the situation, but left their fellow party members behind during the desperation of flight. How was I going to handle that?

   Easy. I just split the party.

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Crumbling UpKeep: “Don’t Split the Party!”

“Don’t split the party.”

  The very phrase seems to be known by every adventuring party ever. If ever a character starts making plans to go off in a separate direction, one of the players is guaranteed to shout this from across the table. If you ask the internet, it won’t hesitate to chime in and let you know what a mistake it is, citing personal examples of character death and misfortune. Scooby Doo’s “Let’s split up, Gang” does not apply when it comes to D&D.

   The basic understanding here is that there is strength in numbers. If the GM throws the big bad at the characters, they’ll have an easier time dealing with it if everyone is together. In a game based on random die rolls, bad things are bound to happen when it is most inopportune. Praying to any intangible gods of luck won’t save players from the game master’s wrath when characters go separate ways.

  There is an even more meta aspect at play as well. Many comics and memes have painted Game Masters as vengeful gods who only exist to punish players. The trope exists for good reason, as those types of GMs absolutely exist. Splitting the party means you’ve made the game more difficult for the GM to run and their vengeance shall be forthcoming. It’s not IF that big bad comes when the party splits, its WHEN, because the GM will make sure that it does. This isn’t a GMing style I endorse, but we’ve all seen it.

  There is a third reason I’d advise against it, and one that is not often considered. Splitting the party has the very real potential to make the game less fun. By doing so, you’ve taken one game and essentially made it two. That means that whenever one half of the group is playing, the other half isn’t engaged. They are no longer part of that story. Sure, some players will still hang on every word, but many more are going to be going to their phones or having disruptive side conversations. That’s not really their fault, however. They came to play a game, not watch one.

   As a player, when faced with the option to split the party, I’ll generally try and take a read on the GM and see what they think. Barring a glance from them that tells me otherwise, my inclination is to stay put. There is always a way to rationalize it in character. It keeps the game together and fun for everyone, which should be the main point.

   From a GM perspective, however, splitting the party can be a great engagement tool if it’s done right. There are times when every player is at work doing something different. Each one has their own little aside in a separate area. It seems unavoidable. When it happens, I focus on two things: length and cliffhangers.

   Keep each player’s turn short and sweet. That way, no one is waiting too long for the lens to shift. That doesn’t mean you have to finish their task; just the opposite, really. Give each player just a snippet at a time, with the knowledge that you are going to come back to them. This lends itself really well to the second technique.

   Whenever you can end one of these snippets on a cliffhanger, do it. These don’t have to be huge. It’s almost better if it is not, as a major happening every moment feels a little soap operaish and cheapens the impacts you want to be larger. Did they open a chest? Let them wait until their next turn to see what is in it. Maybe an NPC asks them a deep or unsettling question.

   “UnQuat stares at you menacingly, his jagged smile unnerving you by its very presence. ‘The Dark God comes,’ he says. ‘She demands a sacrifice. What will you give her?'”

   That would be a great time to take a break and move onto another character. Its a big question and deserves a big question. Any players not involved in the scene listening in will be on the edge of thier seat. The player in the scene in question gets time to think of an epic reply, which can only help the story. If it works out, it keeps everyone engaged and active in the story, even when it isn’t about them.

   There is another time when splitting the party can be a great resource for the GM. An extended split can do some great things for storytelling, role playing, and character development. I’ll cover that in the next article, “It’s Been a While.”

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 5: Death Makes Life

   With the needle and thread, Braxult strengthened her creation. It created great depressions in the ground where it crashed into this new world. She opened the vial of tears to fill them, creating Oceans and rivers.

   Braxult hung the spark in the heavens and watched as light and heat bathed her creation. Next she hung the gem and gold piece so that they might reflect the light of this new sun into the dark places of the world. The light would keeping the Sribinet from entirely consuming it, keeping it forever hers until even the sun and the moons died.

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 4: Death Wanders

   Braxult recognized the chain. Creator abused created. She reasoned that it was her duty to create and abuse as well. The demon of death needed life to fulfill this need. Only the living would fear dying, which would perhaps be their biggest torment. She stole some of the darkness and molded it with her bare hands. Soon, she had a mass of land floating in a sea of dark, though it barely stayed together. There was no life to be found on it. Braxult realized that, while death can give meaning to life, it can not create it.

   She wandered the darklands alone, not knowing what to do. She came upon Yarllath, hammering upon a great anvil. The sparks shot off into the darkness, casting little patches of light.

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Crumbling Keep Presents: The Isles of Samsarras 0

Season 1 Episode 1 – Visions and Meetings

Afsana has some foreboding dreams as newcomers arrive in the Del Harun camp.  Will these newcomers be able to defuse the tension or will they be the flame that ignites the powder keg?

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 2: The Betrayal

   Time passed in Sribinet and it did not, as is the way in the demon realm. The passage of ages was not as mortals would one day know. The three grew to adulthood, and they became envious of their parents. Luln wished to be father. Braxult wished to be mother. Erethalion only wished for change. Together, the siblings conspired.

   One day, Jeragroth came to inflict harm on the three, for his pleasure and that of the darkness.

   “Stand, my children, for I would rend your flesh. Stand, my children, for I would see your blood. Stand, my children, for I would hear your screams. Continue reading “Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 2: The Betrayal”

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Creation- Myth of the Demons, Part 1: The Beginning

   In the days of old, many cultures believed the world was created by demon kind. While the majority of the world today worships the dragon gods, there are still small pockets whose prayers are directed toward the oldest gods. In dark ruins and ancient temples on the fringes of the civilized worlds, those worshipers read from decaying texts, spreading the tales of the very creation of the world itself.  What follows is one such account…

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Alazard the Wicked

   There are many thieves guilds and gangs in Varrek, but it is said they all pay homage to one man: Alazard the Wicked. Publically, Alazard in a merchant, though all know where his true fortune comes from: He is the king of the Varrekian underworld. No large transactions or deals escape his notice. The thieves of Varrek have a saying: steal what you will, but give Alazard his due.

 

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Cult of the Twins

   Long before Varekussius came to be known, the twins Druhaus and Mugan were worshiped as the gods of magic and knowledge. Legend says that Qua Jon, an Elf, was the first mage of the Samsarras. He was gifted his great magic by the twins so that he may teach others the ways of the arcane. Despite the Elves of current day worshiping the dragon gods of their lands, all know this legend well.

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Tur Drexlinth

   Located on the far southern outreach of the city, Tur Drexlinth is home to Sharar Mon Karra. Sharar is a powerful and reclusive necromancer said to travel the city in many differnt guises. The Del Harun, a tribe of warrior merchants who travel the eastern part of Qua’lorn, have a saying: “Every man, woman, and child meets Sharar Mon Karra once.” Continue reading “A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Tur Drexlinth”

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of Nothings

   The House of Nothings lays a quarter mile outside of Varrek proper atop a small rocky outcropping. It is ruled by the Council of the Veil which consists of Cillehartly, Annatree Slipbound, and Cartania the Brass. All three are master illusionists.

   Cillehartly is an elderly Gnomish woman, bent of spine and slow of speech. Originally from Gnomehome, Cillehartly came to Varrek when the city was still young. She made the pilgrimage to pledge her services to Varekussius in exchange for magical knowledge. They have been close ever since. Continue reading “A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of Nothings”

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of 1000 Doors

“One thousand doors, but never one.”
Del Harun Saying

   The House of a Thousand doors is said to be connected to the outside realms. If the fireside tales told late at night in the taverns are to be believed, one can find a doorway to any place or perhaps even any time if they know where to look. There are not many that can verify that information as there are no visible doors on the outside of the structure. Continue reading “A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of 1000 Doors”