607 – Chorka • 16

(As always, don’t forget to put your questions for next week’s Dear DM below! And if your question doesn’t get answered, try again! It’s free!)

Dear DM

@Glenn: Dear DM, Wow. How come you [Lena] don’t sub for Kevin more often?

Dear Glenn,

I have been trying to get Lena to post a blog here literally for years. Apparently the trick is to be injured on the job and get her to feel bad for you. Next Friday I’m planning on running over my feet with a cement mixer. I’ll let you know how it goes.

@Alan: Dear DM, What is Chorka?

Dear Alan,

Dude, do I really still need to answer this? He’s a giant teddy bear.

When describing a new area/room/person, what kind of details do you include to set the scene?

One of my favorite SF writers was Roger Zelazny. He believed that 3 things was all you needed to know about a character, and the writing and the reader’s imagination would take care of the rest. I like to carry this one step further and say that two physical and one emotional thing is all you need to know. For instance, “A tall man with a pinched face and expensive clothes rushes into the bar and motions to the bartender, who worriedly makes his way over.” sounds better than, “A man enters. He is tall, has dark hair and expensive clothes, a wilted flower in his lapel, no weapons that you can see, and is probably from the north. He looks nervous or maybe mad. When he walks in, he waves at the bartender, who goes over to him.”

Now the second example contains more information, but it reads like a laundry list and most Dungeons & Dragons players won’t remember half of it. The first example keys more into the way humans visually process information about each other, which is all about threat assessment. Is he bigger than me, what’s his emotional state, what’s he doing… and then we start to notice details, which your players will ask you about. Also, if there is one obvious physical thing that makes a statement about what the character is… for example a noble might wear expensive clothes… that is a good one to throw in there too.

@Tim: Dear DM, How much time and effort to you put into making maps or npc stats for your games? I’ve gone the route of drawing up a detailed map of the town the players would be spending the majority of their time in, as well as the surrounding countryside and a detailed list of all major people living in the town and their backgrounds. But then I’ve also just winged it and made it all up as I went along. Which do you prefer, and how much time on average is good to spend setting up the, well, the setting for your players?

There are as many different approaches to this as there are games of Dungeons & Dragons in the world, but since you asked how I like to do it, I’ll stick to that.

The answer is as little as possible. I have a great big map of Lesser Earth where the characters play and live, and a map of Laketown where they’ve all been exactly once, but that’s about it topographically speaking. What I have done is taken pictures of all the town sites and dungeons I’ve created with the dungeon tiles, so I can put anything back together that they’ve already been to, but that rarely seems to happen. I had hopes that one of my players would want to map out their town… but the truth is it isn’t that necessary. It’s a tiny place and you can run from one end of it to the other in about a minute and a half. I have a rough idea which landmarks are where, and that seems good enough. The players also appear to have a good idea of what their town looks like to them, and that’s all that really matters to me.

When I’m making dungeons I start with a general idea, and then go to town with my dungeon tiles, looking for stuff that looks fun and interesting. Afterwards I stock the dungeon, and revise monsters with WotC’s Monster Builder program — which is a godsend. I love being able to play with the monster’s levels, so I can use basically any creature at any point in my party’s career.

As far as NPCs go, I don’t think I’ve ever statted any of them out unless I knew there was going to be combat with that guy. Typically I don’t stat anyone out at all, instead I just keep a vague idea of how much bother any person in particular would be the party. If they surprise me and attack someone who really ought to have stats then I just make it up on the spot, deciding then what their powers/abilities would look like and how much damage they would do. I don’t like combats that go on too long, and I enjoy it when the players dispatch something more easily than they expected… or when a bad guy does something mundane and clever that confounds everyone… so I try to keep those things in mind. I do use Monster Builder here sometimes as well.

I do get a little bit more into backgrounds, because I want my NPCs to have very clear motivations for me. I want to be able to know immediately how an NPC is going to react to whatever weird thing the PCs throw at him or bring up, and have it be natural and meaningful.

@Giffein: Dear DM, I run a D&D group of 6 players. One of them is really hot. She is married to one of the other players but they argue and I think I can break them up. How can I break them up and make her want to be with me?

Dear Giffein,

I hear this D&D question more than any other. Fortunately the answer is as simple as it is quick. Run an encounter against something that people are really scared of, like rattlesnakes, or great big scorpions, or gorillas, or clowns with ratty green hair and whiskey breath who try to grab you with their giant clown fingers and drag you to the middle of the parade even though you’re screaming and all the people watching are laughing at you and you hope god comes down right that instant and kills them all with a plague of honey and carnivorous fire ants but he doesn’t because god isn’t real and everything anyone ever said to you was lies, horrible, horrible lies…

Um… we’ll just go with gorillas.

So you run an encounter with these really scary and strong gorillas and just as you get to the final roll where your hottie’s husband (we’ll call him Todd) is probably going to die, you give the secret hand signal to your mom, who is hiding in the closet with a real gorilla, which leaps out of the closet and into the middle of the table. Now your real gorilla (which is actually a super-intelligent ape, highly trained in ninjitsu and a master at acupressure) roars at Todd and punches him directly in the abdominus defecatus complex, causing him to crap his pants. Next the gorilla picks up the hottie, holding her over his head in triumph while scanning your parent’s dining room for a tall building to climb.

At this point you leap forward with your replica of Aragorn’s sword Anduril and in one swift motion, chop off the gorilla’s head. Finally you stride forward, covered in the hot blood of your “enemy”, grab your hottie, and dramatically setting one foot on the headless corpse, plant a wet and sloppy kiss on the girl of your dreams. Once you’ve shown how rugged, brave, and romantic you are, she won’t be able to run away fast enough from her big chicken, pants crappin’, ex-husband Todd.

P.S. You’ll probably have to cut off your Mom’s head too, just to tie up any loose ends.

@Mist: Dear DM, if DM’s (especially webcomic author DM’s) suddenly “get a life” (meant in a nice way – read huge paying job/win lottery/grilfriend starts spiking drinks with aphrodesiacs & cialis) and find that they stop being able to run game/post updates  should they be expected to come clean about the plotline/ending of the current adventure?

Dear Mist,

As a fellow player and a human being I would absolutely have to say yes. Little is more frustrating to a player and discouraging of future play than to put potentially years into a character and a game and then have it suddenly and unsatisfactorily snuff out without ever even seeing the end. Think of Battlestar Galactica being cancelled at the next to final episode. Would you want to play that game?

As a DM however I say what the hell gives those ingrates any right to one more minute of my time? Here I am, working late, working weekends, neglecting my real friends and family to make a fun world for them to ignore and ridicule and now they want even more from me? Oh here, here’s a nice little tie-up for your campaign for you to take home and throw in the trash without even reading! You know what, you guys can suck my balls if you think you’re getting anything else out of me! What’s the matter with you assholes anyway?

So… um… anyway, I’d say yes. Let ’em know.

45 Responses to 607 – Chorka • 16

  1. Two questions I have, one for the DM and one for Kev.

    First’s for Kev: what in heavenly tarnation have you done to the Snuggle bear!? Have you sent it to the Far Realms to be altered by the Yuuzhan Vong Kaorti?

    Second for the DM, slightly related to the first: with the Edition change, what is your opinion about the changes in the classes? Please give several well-explained examples of your thoughts about the matter to aid my fellow readers and H.O.L.E fans.

  2. Dear DM,

    What is the best way to attract people who’ve never played D&D before and have negative stereotypes of it to your game? ESPECIALLY if your game is not stereotypical at all (insofar as to have a pizza delivery specialist moogle as a player character, for example)?

    • What the heck is a “moogle”? ❓ 😕

      Wait, did you mean “mogul” 😐 (a magnate) and tried to spell it roughly phonetically? Or at least how English-speaking people pronounce the poor word? (I checked pronunciation at dict.leo.org. Bwahahaha! Sorry.)

      *conks TSED over the head in the name of all the Mongol emperors of India and the Great Mughal Empire*

      • A Moogle, as far as I know, is a cute little batwinged, big nosed teddy bear lookin’ thing with a single antenna sticking out of it’s head. They hail from whatever universe the Final Fantasy games take place in and usually only show up in the games of anime loving teenagers/goth kids. Fie on Moogles, Fie on goth kids. And Final Fantasy sucked past number 3.

      • A moogle is a creature originally from final fantasy (http://images.google.ca/images?q=moogle&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi) Tiny, (think gnome size) usually highly intelligent with high charisma, but they have low wisdom and strength. Most have a speech impediment that causes them to say “kupo” a lot. Their wings are mostly decorative but can allow for a featherfall or jump effect at your GM’s discretion.

          • Well they can have any profession. Usually they are more into tinkering with gadgets, ride-able animal handling, farming, or making goofing off look like a full time occupation, but you always get the oddball who does some other job.

          • I’m offended that you think I would make such an egregious error.

            Yes, they’re what Moginheden and Tim said, mostly. My player mostly asked to be one to see how ridiculous I’d let things go, knowing full well I have a strong dislike for Final Fantasies and teen wangst in general.

            And no, they don’t deliver pizzas. Not even the pizza delivery specialist does, really.

  3. Chorka… is a giant… man-eating(cause otherwise what are those nasty teeth for?) albino teddy bear?!
    Ugh, my head hurts… Get out of that Heroes! Hah!

    I guess they’ll need a giant 6yr old to beat that one.

    • Actually, Chorka isn’t albino, as the only visible skin (The nose) isn’t white.

      I think that it is more of a teddy bear that has been ordered supersize at the toy shop, and given teeth, claws, and a (presumably) bad attitude.

      Think a slightly cuter polar bear.

        • *drops jaw*
          *picks it back up*
          A snow polar bear, eh? This is something like a crazy eagerly participating member of the Westboro Baptist Church I gather?

          • Didja ever play Hunter: The Reckoning on the original Xbox? There was a big ass demon possessed teddy in that game, and it vomited corrosive acid to boot. A few blasts with a shotgun and hacks with a chainsaw ought to sort out that Chorka.

  4. Dear DM,

    Do you use / do you think that props are useful in a game. I don’t necessarily mean minatures, but having an item that the player has to do something with it to fulfil the obligations of a quest, eg a crystal that the player has to say magic words in order to operate it’s properties.

    Yours concerned,


    • Look on the right hand side. You should see a green box (that follows you around) with a big blue “First Strip” button. Beneath the button in the green box is the navigation for the comic. This way it is always in the exact same place, no matter where you are.

      • Ok, I’ve looked…. I still don’t’ see it. I’m using Firefox and I have the add-on “flashblock” to disable annoying talking ads. Would either of these affect it?

        There really should be a way to navigate without any scripts/flash required. For now I’m using the page https://www.heroesoflesserearth.com/2010/01/ to navigate, but that’s a bit clunky.

        • Hm… switching to IE7 I still don’t see the new navigation box…

          Edit: ok there it is if I fullscreen the window in either IE or FF. If the window is smaller than the page the box doesn’t exist though, (can’t scroll over to it, the grey bar it is supposed to be in is empty.)

          • I see what you mean. I think it’s because the box is set a certain number of pixels from the left side of your window, so if your window is smaller than that, no amount of scrolling will ever get to it.

    • It took me a couple moments of searching the entire page to notice the bluegreen navigation box.

      But where’s the voting button gone?

      • I guess it’s gone!

        TWC was a pretty good draw as long as I was on the front page… and in the to 40 or so. But the effort to keep it up there was kind of exhausting, and the people who came from there seemed not to really stick. In the end Web Monkey decided it wasn’t worth cluttering up the site with anymore.

  5. I see Mr. Unseen DM didn’t have a suitably-sized bear miniature and had to resort to using one of his little sister’s old fluffy teddy bears. 😆 Maybe he even put it in bleach beforehand. At scale, compared with the size of the standard adventurer mini, that’s still a pretty small bear. 😉

    I keep imagining him drawing it forth from under the table, putting it on the battlegrid with a dramatic flourish, and telling the players how they should please imagine huge sharp claws and teeth on the thing. Rrrrawwrrr!

    Bunker is obviously stunned for one round. 😉

    • Obviously[1] Swillsberne Rocshlassen didn’t run away because he’s a coward, sorry, survivor, but because he has a deep-seated fear of TEDDY BEARS! Probably the result of a deeply-buried childhood trauma involving his mother… or sister… or an aunt, anyway… and a stuffed toy. Which was bought at a wizard’ workshop by said mother, or sister, or aunt, as a Berel’s Day gift for sweet little Swilly. (Who had really wanted a puppy, but was told it’s the thought that counts.)

      And then it came alive at night and messily, gruesomely, ate the whole family. (Except for little Swilly who hid in a closet.) [2]

      And then little Swilly ran away and lived on the squalid, torchlit streets of Bereltown and became a Dickensian child abuse victim.
      [1] how all sentences of questionable leaps of logic start out…
      [2] pardon the implications

  6. A giant teddy bear. Of course, it makes perfect sense! I think Velvet had the right idea along with Swillsberne. At any rate, this looks like an interesting encounter.

    I like the new navigation box, a clean bit of programming by the looks of it.

  7. This is what happens when you don’t want to spend money on miniatures, isn’t it?

    It’s why I have had, among other things, a dragon that was a Geico foam lizard, a giant that looked strangely like Buddha, a stone giant that looked weirdly like St. Andrew, and, as soon as I make some little spiky balls on pipe cleaners, the World’s Awesomest Flail Snail.

    • Ya know, as soon as you introduce the “Snail Flail” into your game, you’ve pretty much already jumped the shark miniatures-wise. All that’s left is to have two of your characters have a baby together and then get haunted by a poltergeist, then you can pack it up and go home.

      The Fiend Folio* should have been the Githyanki Flyer and nothing else. I mean modrons? Modrons???

      *Although the Snail Flail was in the Fiend Folio, I am reasonably certain it first appeared in a Dragon Magazine on a month when all the editors were out with the typhoid.

  8. Do Monks in 4E still have an increased movement rate?
    Freya doesnt have to run faster’n Chorka… she only has to run faster than Bunker. 😉 😈

  9. It seems your new navigation bar needs some tweeking. With much fiddling, I can get it to show. But it is squeezed almost off the side of the page (webpage not my screen page which is wider). The result is that for me it is unusable. Meanwhile, the ad on the upper left of the blog is partially covering the text; so that’s something else that wants tweeking.

    Past experience suggests these issues will eventually get fixed, so I’m not really complaining, simply letting yoy know what’s needed.

      • Display properties shows the monitor setting as 1366×768 pixels – a wude screen laptop running under XP Pro, or Linux 9.04.
        Browser is Firefox. Help shows the version, for XP, as 3.5.7.

        I’m running the window maximized so widening is not really an option. It would be a worthwhile idea otherwise.

        The new location for the navigation gizmo works a lot better for me.

        • Ya I talked to the web monkey about it and she moved it to the left hand side. Works pretty well in all browsers now. Not quite perfect if you have a horizontal scroll bar and scroll to the right, but I don’t see a way to fix that.