Leliana Vess, Defier of Demons

Leliana Vess, Defier of Demons
Black Magic shall rule over all

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monsters, Mazes, Swords, Sorcery and Missing Persons: Dungeons and Dragons.


  So here I want to talk about an old love (some might say obsession) of mine that grew from when I was a kid to now. I’m talking about the greatest of old school table-top, the World of Warcraft of the kitchen table: Dungeons and Dragons.
  For anyone who hasn’t heard of this game (what rock have you been living under?), I’ll offer a brief description. Dungeons and Dragons is a game in which you decide the ultimate story, a game which never ceases to grow, and a game that never ends. In Dungeons and Dragons (or DND), you create a character and adventure in a large fantasy realm where the Dungeon Master (DM) will decide what kind of dangers you face and what kind of rewards you reap. It is a game that forever changes.
  DND is in essentials the originator of every RPG you have ever played, or ever will play. It’s a roleplaying game that focuses on simply using your imagination and a little math. After making your character, the DM will tell a story, in a sense, in which you and your friends are the main characters. Whether its something small like saving a merchants son or ridding a town of mind flayers, to something huge like saving the world from an evil draco-lich bent on raising the dead, YOU are the main characters who will decide what happens and how you tackle each threat. The story can be told in a comedy, a tragedy, an epic or a war story, but each story will be unique as the characters in it or the DM tells it.
  My first taste of DND was really something more of a small preview. Plenty of shows did small little parts where the characters, typically nerds with pen protectors, would play the game in the dark of their basement, with only a candle to give them light, and seemingly have the time of their lives. Being such a fantasy nerd when I was a kid (and still am), I truly wanted to get into this seemingly amazing game. For years I searched every store I knew trying to see when one day I would find this seemingly impossible to find game. Then finally one day when I was in the Barnes and Nobles in 14th street, when I was in Sophomore year of high school, I finally found the DND basic set, and begged my mother to loan me the money (I was much too old for gifts at this point of course) so that I could get the game right then and there. Of course I paid her back, and set to work learning how to play this amazing game. What I found was amazing. The game tells you straight from the book that following the rules isn’t actually necessary. The rules and everything can be almost done on the fly, though it is encouraged to follow the rules in the books for people who play other campaigns, or should you decide to play in someone else’s campaign.
  For years however I was saddened to see just how much the game relied on having multiple people. This was before I had many friends who would be interested in playing the game, and couldn’t have very many people over to my house to play. So for years I pretty much adventured almost by myself (something I became extremely good at with all the years of being an only child) until finally, this year. A new Magic: the Gathering store that’s opened up near me, The Twenty Sided Store, only about a half-hour walk from me, allows us not only a place to finally play Magic whenever we want, but also lets us play DND there as well, the original reason the place was created. Its here that I found that seven of my friends were interested in playing the game. Needless to say, when I’m not playing Magic or games, I’m either playing DND or reading books about dnd. I’m playing in one campaign while DM’ing another and writing another campaign as well. I’ve also decided to rewrite the story for my character.
  My character is a Moon Elven Fighter named Lanrinil who wields a longsword. I’m also thinking of having her foray into one of the greatest of elf classes, the Dusk Blade. The Dusk Blade is a class which combines the strength of the fighter with the arcane might of the sorcerer into a potent combination, one in which enemies have to be afraid of attacking no matter how far or near they are. If an enemy is out-fighting you, you can out-magic them, and if the enemies out-magic-ing you, you can out fight them. A deadly combination. I also believe I’m supposed to get a bonus in this class because my characters a full blooded elf, but I have to continue looking into that.
  Because my real campaign takes places in the planes of hell in the last phases, I’ve also been reading the Fiendish Codex 2, which gives details about the nine levels of hell as well as the nine lords of each hell, and its been an interesting read so far. The one I find most interesting is the relationship of two of the lords, Lady Fierna and her father Lord Belial. While Lady Fierna is the actual Lord of their level, she is merely a figurehead, and her father Belial was the true ruler who made all the decisions. Lady Fierna at first did not mind this place in her life, and was comfortable simply staying in her chamber having sex all day and all night while her father made all the decisions. There was even rumors that she was having a incestuous relationship with her father. This was until she met one of the other lords of hell, the daughter of Asmodeus, Lady Glyssa. She became fast friends with the only other female Lord, and began to idolize her tremendously. This led her to taking up her position of Lord a bit more seriously, something her father finds slightly disturbing. He now spends most of his time conspiring how to get his daughter to stop idolizing Glyssa so much without obviously doing anything to Glyssa, because that could be taken as action against her doting father, Asmodeus, King of the Nine Hells. Its rather interesting how each of the Lords pretty much spends all their time conspiring and scheming against one another, except for Fierna, who spent most of her time having sex. Sorry I just can’t get over that; I think its where Capcom got the inspiration for Morrigan.
But anyway, I also wrote up a short part of my character’s story; mostly a prologue. My character, Lanrinil, is a Moon-Elf princess who’s kingdom was completely roused by an unknown invading army. All she remembers of the night her kingdom was destroyed was the army’s leader, a giant knight with all black armor using a blade that seemed to be made of pitch-black. Once her kingdom was destroyed and she was left by herself, Lanrinil was forced to live a hard life on the streets, doing anything she could to try to survive. It was then she met a Dwarf fighter named Ragdar, who taught her how to fight and started her on the path of the Sell-Sword. It was here that she decided to work as a Sell-sword so that she could eventually gain enough skills to go after that Black Knight. In this quest she and Ragdar create an adventuring group known as the Missing Pieces. They are eventually joined by an elven couple, a wizard named Minuros, and a cleric named Catherine, and a Rogue human named Mikel and a Dwarf Cleric named Glavos. I also decided that she is not going to end up fighting the Black Knight way until I finally decide to retire the character. That’s going to be a very sad day when that eventually comes, because Lanrinil’s been with me since I first started playing the game. Back when I first started, it took me nearly 3 hours just to create her. Now finally her story is going to be fleshed out now that I finally have some people to play with. Can’t wait for it.
  I’m also thinking of trying to make a kunoichi in the game, whether it will be as a NPC or an alt for me. I’ve found out ninjas can actually be both a starter or a prestige class depending on what you go with. Thus I might make two: one as a NPC and possible love interest for Lanrinil, and one as an actual character for me to use. The Alt one I would most likely take her down the route of Rouge/Assasin/Ninja though.  That’ll take a while for me raise a rogue up to that high a level where she could take a prestige class like that, but hey, itll be cool. The alt definitely has to be suited to my personal tastes, since that’s the girl my character eventually falls in love with. Just to fuck around Ill give her a completely pink ninja gi, all anime-ish and shit with blue hair. I’m thinking of having her begin at epic level too. She’s most likely not the character I’m going to adventure with, and might be relegated to NPC-status, so I don’t feel the need to start her off at level 1.
  Definetly the hardest part of DND is DM-ing, no question. I don’t care how people feel about that. If you don’t have the time or energy to actually put forth the effort into building your own world, you shouldn’t even thinking of DM-ing in your own world. Use the Forgotten Realms setting or DragonLance if you have to, because if you don’t have the time to dedicate to it, you’re world will be a shambles. That’s something I’m pretty much learning now. I want to be able to create a giant world for my characters and players to adventure through, but sometimes I feel like I just don’t have enough time. It makes me wonder how someone like Ed Greenwood found the time to do it when he was a kid, and he managed to basically create the entire Forgotten Realms!
  I always a huge fan of the Forgotten Realms too. Like I said before, when I was a kid, nothing fascinated me more than seeing DND being played. So of course as a kid I jumped on anything that seemed even remotely DND related. So as a kid whenever I went to Manhattan and to the Delancy area, right where the B15 would pick up anyone for the bus, I used to jump into the Salvation Army store located right at the stop and go right to the book section. It was rare sometimes, but I always jumped for joy whenever I found a Forgotten Realms novel. And these weren’t the ones published by Wizards of the Coast, nooooo. These were published by the original masters of high fantasy: TSR. My mother, always being one to encourage her sons imagination, pretty much bought any book there I wanted. After all, they were about a dollar a book anyway, so she didn’t even mind. I think that may also be the reason why I get excited whenever I walk into a bookstore or a thrift shop. Anyway, I used to devour these books. Yeah I didn’t understand absouluetly everything that happened in them, but I was fascinated by how majestic the worlds seemed. Then I came to find out years later that the Forgotten Realms actually WAS a setting for DND. Who knew?
  The characters involved in the stories were always amazing to me. Characters like Elminster, Arunsun, Elaith Craulnober, Manshoon of Zhentil Keep, Drizt Do’Urden, Artemis Entreri, and so many others. Arunsun was the biggest one out of all of them that attracted me. Unlike other wizards, he was extremely built, somewhat young looking, physically very opposing, and still had black hair. Regardless of how much he doesn’t look like your typical Arch-mage, he still has enough power in him to kill almost anyone instantly. On the other side of the paradon lies Elminster. Elminster is the archtypical high fantasy mage: Seemingly old and decrepit, he has a long white beard and speaks in an quizzical sort of speech. However, he also happens to be one of the strongest spellcasters in all of Faerun. All of the characters in the Forgotten Realms all have this huge amount of backstory dedicated to them from all different kinds of authors, each one giving their own little spin on the characters while at the same time maintaining that delicate little balance to keep the characters the same for whoever else has them next. Its almost the same thing that typically happens with comic book characters who are passed around to waiting authors for their next adventure.
  Now that I’ve really gotten a chance to sit down and explore the mystical world of Dungeons and Dragons, It truly feels like my childhood has come full circle. I feel like that little bookworm who used to sit in the library reading fantasy novels. Its an amazing feeling. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ruins to explore.

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