This week, I decided to open up the floor to reader questions. I am committed to answering these in the most serious way that I can.
So, without further ado, your questions and my answers!
How do you take plot points that have been scattered a bit too far out and gather them back up into a solid arc? – Jerry LeNeave
I’m glad you asked this question, because we hear this one all too often around the Critical Hits Hacienda. The trick to keeping plot points in line is not in fixing them once there’s a problem, but in proper preparation. And that, like most things, is rooted in good nutrition.
Straightforward plots generally can live on crickets and other small insects, but a really fast-moving plot will require the consumption of a weasel (or other mustelid) at least twice weekly. Particularly twisty plots need a lot of Vitamin E, as it is a natural depilatory. More exotic plots, like the European In Medias Res, will require specially processed plot foods as well as an hour every couple days under a UV light.
However, your question implies that you have an existing plot problem, and that should be addressed. You need to get your plot points back onto their nice, safe rail so they can heal before the players encounter them. There are several ways you can accomplish this. Plot points are attracted to anything shiny and new, and this is one of the reasons they go astray in the first place. Writing new characters is a good way to get the plot out in the open where you can capture it, then you can kill the character off. Be warned: sometimes this is too much for weaker plots, and they keel over and die. (Or explode.) A good, strong plot should be able to withstand the trauma of this, and you’ll have it back on its rail in no time. You can also spray yourself in the musk of a plot of the opposite sex, but this can lead to the creation of a lot of little side-plots that you probably don’t want to deal with. If everything fails – well, you need to be prepared to retcon the whole herd before they get Mad Plot disease.
With these simple tips, hard work, and a little luck, your plots will be happy through your entire campaign and the cuts of meat you get from them afterward will be tender and delicious. I don’t have time right now to go over grilling tips, but contact me privately for my backstory marinade recipe.
Non-gaming question, but how goes job hunting/full-time-dadding? – Jeff Dougan
Thanks for asking! I have a new job now with a company full of nice people. I feel like I got laid off from Mordor and now work in the Shire’s IT department.
Full-time dadding continues to be one of my favorite things to do, and I have been teaching my son the most important things in life. I believe he could disable a burglar with his foam rapier. He also wants to hear the theme to the A-Team on the way to daycare every single morning, and the theme to the Transformers movie (1986) every night on the way home. Based on this, I believe he will not be the President of the United States when he grows up. He will be the President’s direct manager.
What’s with you, ELFcookies and the color blue? – Philippe–Antoine Ménard
Back when I was still gaming with Dante and Stupid Ranger, we discovered that my brain would produce amazing ideas and my mouth would say amazing things (some of which were even intelligible) if I had eaten a large amount of sugar. At first, it was caramel filled Hershey’s kisses, which we called “shadow mana” or something else equally ridiculous. At one point, someone brought over a box of E.L. Fudge Double Stuf cookies. I disappeared half the box in the span of about an hour and found the salty taste of the cookies to be an excellent counter to the sweetness of the filling. That plus a lot of caffeine yielded some truly legendary exploits that I only partially remember. Poor Dante.
Sadly, my hardcore sugar days seem to be at an end. My current group has prohibited me from sugaring up while DMing. This is for good reason, as I simply cannot focus on anything long enough to run combat in that state. Also, it’s probably not good for me to eat 4000 calories in a 4 hour span before bedtime. After a hearty meal of pizza, of course.
As for the blue, well, it’s been my favorite color since I was little. Long before the Smurfs. Long before Avatar. Long before Dr. Manhattan or any specific portions of him thereof. You cannot blame anyone for finding that interesting. We are all like cats following a laser pointer, except the laser pointer is blue.
Why do you continue to suckle off the WotC teat when they are obviously ignorant of what gamers want in an RPG these days? – Kanati8869
First, let’s clear something up. A teat large enough to dispense hardcover books would be incredibly difficult for a human being to suckle from at all, much less safely.
You claim that WotC is “obviously” ignorant of what gamers want in an RPG. This is a very astute observation. When I attended the D&D Experience convention this past January, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with WotC’s community manager, who was very focused on making sure that every player’s needs were so thoroughly ignored that he wasn’t even allowed to carry a smartphone or writing utensils lest a concern gain any sense of permanence. I was even honored to give him his hourly head trauma so that he couldn’t remember anything.
I have several theories as to why this is.
1. WotC wants to hack into our bank accounts and convert all our money into in-game gold for D&D Online. Then it will impose economic sanctions on Activision/Blizzard, starting World of Warcraft War III. There is no reason to develop a good gaming system, all resources are devoted to brute-force-hacking passwords.
2. WotC is just the gaming division of the secret terrorist organization COBRA. Their current plot to defeat G.I. Joe involves a two-pronged plan. The first part consists of making a cruel mockery of anything Gary Gygax ever made. The second part is Fortune Cards.
3. WotC has been secretly sold to Apple, and Steve Jobs is convinced that getting people to stop playing D&D will boost App Store sales.
4. The entire R&D team at WotC has been replaced by robots who cannot love.
At this point, I cannot honestly see a reason why anybody would ever buy a WotC product, as clearly everyone hates everything about 4th edition, it is the diametric opposite of fun, and it is basically the gaming equivalent of The Situation from MTV’s “Jersey Shore”. However, the brain-implant I received when I came on staff here says I have to rescind that remark and remind everyone that the new Neverwinter sourcebook is available at friendly local gaming stores everywhere!
In the event of needing to consume a party member, which race and/or class would be the best choice (flavor, texture, longevity)? And conversely, which ones would be the worst? – Aaron R
I should say right up front that you shouldn’t expect the same kind of results when cooking adventurers as you get with normal folk. Your average person, especially a sedentary noble, will typically be well-fed and therefore fattier. Adventurers are always on the move (which burns a lot of calories) and they consume relatively little (especially the cheapskates that bought iron rations). Adventurer-meat is likely to be tougher and less flavorful. I recommend carrying several canteens filled with BBQ sauce on any quest longer than 48 hours.
Far and away the race with the best flavor is going to be Dragonborn. Some dislike having to remove the hard outer shell, but since you’re eating adventurers it shouldn’t be too hard to find something with which to crack it open. The meat is somewhat reminiscent of chicken but you can taste a spicy hint of dragon ancestry. The best cuts of dragonborn typically come from their clerics. Divine magic really brings out the flavor in dragonborn meat. You should be able to pick up a decent clerical rump roast at your local adventure-butcher for anywhere from a few silvers to 30-40gp (depending on level).
As for classes with the best flavor, it’s a little known fact that the reason arcane magic tends to make its practitioners weak and frail is because it slowly converts the wizard’s blood into teriyaki sauce. It is for this reason that Raistlin Majere of Krynn turned golden, and many an adventurer-foodie has fantasized about gnoshing on Raistlin-kebabs with a little pineapple. I know I sure have.
There’s a lot of adventure-meats that I don’t care for but a good meal can be salvaged from almost any race/class combination with the right attitude (and spices). There are, however, a few to avoid if you can help it. Elf-meat somehow finds a way even to taste pretentious, and gnomes barely have enough on each bone to be worth the trouble. Probably the worst of the lot, though, are dwarves. Don’t get me wrong. Dwarf meat can be delicious, but finding someone who can de-vein them properly is a miracle and it’s an absolute disaster if that goes wrong. It is certainly not something a hungry and desperate party of adventurers can pull off with a rusty shortsword in the dark bowels of a dungeon.
For a class that will ruin your dining experience, look no further than the Runepriest. Their meat is bitter and inexplicably full of tiny bones, no matter what race.
One of the big surprises of the season for me was revenant jerky. One would think the flesh of the undead would be vile and inedible, but it turns out vengeance truly is a dish best served cold, pressed, and salted to oblivion.
Until Next Time
Thanks for sending in your questions. I hope I’ve shed some light on these very important topics. I’ll be doing this from time to time, so if you’ve got a burning question, please feel free to contact me here, via the Twitternets, or via telepathy (best way).
P.S. my other top choice for naming this was “Dear Aboleth”.