Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sometimes the players change the plot

A player is bringing in a new character to the game. The group is pledged to the local King through their artifact weapons. In order to unleash the power of the weapon, one must become 'soul bound' to it. In becoming 'soul bound' a character also gains a bond to the other weapon wielders. Certain powers of the weapons are additive if more than one weapon is being used along side another. The powers of evil, for I like having powers of evil in my game, recognize the artifact weapons as a threat and therefore desire to prevent another weapon gaining a 'soul bound' wielder. The player's new character manages to avoid the trap laid by the powers of evil, meets her new comrades, and prepares for the binding ceremony the next morning. Lots of pomp and circumstance, some noble feel good moments and then off to the grand adventure I had planned for them. But not so fast, for the players had other ideas. As I mentioned before, I prefer a Story Telling Adventure Game type of play. So I have a strong story arc, and the players work within that to tell the story. You see it was the night before the ceremony and the players assumed that I would be a Rat Bastard DM and attempt another assassination attempt on the new character. There was a precedent, as the powers of evil have used assassination in the past and will most certainly do so again in the future. So as the players began to fret a bit and plan against the attempt, I let the paranoia build. As any good DM will tell you, some paranoia is good, and any paranoia is fun (at least for the DM). However, I let it get out of hand and the players spent a goodly part of the evening preparing for the assassination attempt that was not in the story arc. Letting the night pass without the anticipated event would be disappointing to the players, and the time left for our game evening would only allowed me to do the ceremony and not much else. So I was left with a choice - stick to my story arc or improvise. I hate to let an evening pass without the players having some good dice rolling and excitement, so improvise it was. Why not give them what they want? I bought a little time by saying, "OK, draw out the inn and show me where everyone is going to be." I ran through the options in my head, altered a villain slightly and had that said villain send a leveled invisible stalker after the new character. The battle turned out quite memorable, with characters going down, characters risking their lives to protect others, some clever actions and a humorous moment when the wizard blasted a hole through the wall on the second floor of the inn and destroyed the roof of the neighboring building. All in all a good nights work. In the morning they had the ceremony but not before the innkeeper told them they were no longer welcome at his inn. Heroism has its price. I do not always let the players write the story arc, but sometimes the story is enriched by letting them do so. Turns out the changes to the villain opened up a number of interesting possibilities that I have already used in the game to the general benefit of the future story. Now to be clear, the players/characters ALWAYS have a hand in the story. The plot outline is written but the outcome of events is not determined by me but by their actions. And of course their actions have consequences, good and bad, which I allow to play out. So though I am the primary creator of the plot outline, the players give it life and alter its direction. Sure this has some challenges, but overall it keeps the game fresh, unpredictable, and exciting. The dice never lie.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Endless quest for the perfect summer beer - part 2 some flavored beers

The Brewers over at Magic Hat like to unleash a steady stream of not so ordinary seasonal brews. This year's summer brew is called Wacko, not unlike the folks at Magic Hat themselves. If you missed the fine print when looking at it on the shelf, the beer is pink in color from the touch of beet juice. Are you still with me? Though not quite commonplace, I am not afraid and I purchase a 12 pack (because there are no six packs). I can get over the pink color, I can get over the concept of beet beer, I am eager to have a delicious summer beer, crisp with just a bite of hops. Unfortunately I am disappointed. Too much hops, too much bite, waaaayyyyy too much bitterness in the tasted during and afterwards. The beets only add a faint sweetness that stands before the bitterness like a zero level man-at-arms with a pointed stick against an ancient red dragon. Magic Hat wacko brewers I love you guys, but this is a fail. I will keep feeding them to Brian during game days until they are gone. On my way to the lake this weekend, with temperatures threatening into the low 90s, a crisp refreshing beer was desperately needed. Then I saw it, the nice folks at Harpoon UFO division gave me just what I needed, raspberry Hefeweizen. I think it is very similar to their regular UFO Hefeweizen but with just enough raspberry taste and just a hint of sweetness. I had a 6 pack of that like many good things, it passed leaving me wanting for more. This beer is crisp, well balanced, thoroughly refreshing and highly recommended for those hot hours of the day with the brilliant summer sun sizzling on your skin. My son brought with him some blueberry wheat beer from the Wachusett Brewing Company. I am not sure if this can be had in very many places outside of Northern Massachusetts but it is worth a taste if you see it. Far too light for cool weather drinking, it is crisp, dry, not too bitter, and with only a hint of sweetness and a balanced amount of blueberry taste. This beer does not stand up to heavy foods very well, but like the raspberry UFO above, is very good in the heat of the midday sun. We alternated between the raspberry and blueberry beers until they ran out. Fortunately for us the clouds rolled in and it was time to grill some Wisconson made Bratwursts, which went very nicely with the Dos Equis that we left in the refridgerator. But that is for another post. Cheers

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drink free or die

Fine, that is a tacky title. Fits the tacky wine I just finished. New Hampshire is not exactly known for its fine wines, but we do have a few wineries and distilleries. One such is Flag Hill in Lee, NH. There is a quaint farm that produces some grape and fruit wines, distills some kind of local vodka, and has some events where they are the provider of food as well. My wife and I did a tour in the Miata last year of a few local wineries. Flag Hill had some nice people in a nice location. I felt guilty and bought a bottle of blueberry port and a bottle of Marechal Foch. I had the port last fall. It was interesting in that it did taste somewhat like port. It was pleasant enough and came in a unique bottle, however much better 'real' port could be had for the same price Today I am finishing the bottle of Marechel Foch vintage 2006. The name of the grape is named after the famous French General from the first world war. Apparently it is a versatile grape which can be used to make port like wine, a light red apertif, and an inky dark wine like this one from Flag Hill. The Marechal Foch grape is grown here because they can; not much else grows very successfully in this wine unfriendly climate and rocky terrior. I honor their effort but the result is quite sub-par compared to the European, Australian, Californian and South American wines I am typically drinking. The wine tasted mildly fruity reminiscent of black fruits though very young tasting like it should have been laid down, though I doubt it was of the quality that would last long if done so. There was both some acidity and tannins but the overall balance was off. I should have just made sangria with it, or just had it slightly chilled. If you are local, try it if you are curious but don't expect it to compete with the wine royalty that you may be accustomed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Endless quest for the perfect summer beer - part 1

Crisp, dry, with just enough body and a hint of flavor. Low cal light beers just do not do it for me anymore. Tried a six pack of Landshark Lager over the last week. It is produced (likely more accurately manufactured - it makes me shudder) by the Margaritaville Brewery of Jimmy Buffet fame. It claims to be an original island lager. I find it a bit too creamy to meet my somewhat vague perfect summer beer yardstick, and too creamy to be calling itself an island lager. Otherwise it was acceptable, better suited for a moderately warm island evening than a hot and humid island afternoon. I am suseptable to headaches from some beers even in small quantities (most Anheuser Busch products will give me a headache, 1/2 a bud is the equivalent of driving a rusty iron spike through the top of my skull). A couple of Landsharks at a sitting did not produce a beer reaction headache in me. I'll put this lager on my "I'll buy it again if I can't find anything better" listing. Which, in fact, is not a bad rating since I am quite particular. Cheers.
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