Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ptolus, Ten Years Later

I am very shortly going to post the last missing piece of the whole first Praemal Tales campaign chronicled on this blog.

It would not have felt appropriate to do so without some form of introduction or explanation as to the reasons for my return here, after all this time, but it also wouldn't have felt right to burden the Jewel of the Mind part 2 with extraneous information to its subject matter. What you are seeing on this post is a slightly altered copy of the original facebook update which triggered this trip down memory lane, and ultimately, inspired me to finally report the end of the last session of the first Praemal Tales, a little more than nine years ago.

Now please carry on, if you are willing.

The timing of all this is eerie to me, given that Steve Russell/Qwilion of Rite Publishing and "Okay... Your Turn" (or "OYT", Monte Cook's message boards at the time) just passed. When the news flooded facebook yesterday I was thrown all the way back to that era of the Internet RPG community and my gaming and it made me think a lot about those days.

I can honestly say that if it weren't for OYT and the amazing atmosphere of camaraderie and cross-pollination of ideas that went on there, the friendships and the civil debates (OMG, you can have some of those online? Well yes, yes, on OYT at that time you certainly could!), I probably wouldn't be here posting this for some thousand odd friends reading this update because of our gaming connections, and I probably wouldn't have stepped forward and proposed my help to Ernie and Luke Gygax a few years back.

ENWorld (and the ENWorld of those days, around 2003, was much different than it is today) allowed me to talk D&D with other gamers before social media was a "thing" beyond sites like MySpace, and OYT showed me I had something to contribute to the field. That might sound like a long time ago for some of you... probably because it kinda is now. Ha ha. In any case, this is to give you some context to the whole thing as I reminisce about it all.

Now Ptolus. Up to that point, I had been running some pretty straightforward games and campaigns using the 3rd edition of the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game. By the book, you could say, with this amount of encounters, this or that type of set-up of the week, these kinds of things. Ptolus in play opened those horizons dramatically at a key moment to me as a gamer.

My first Ptolus campaign started pretty much by the book, 3rd edition rules, a little bit of Arcana Evolved thrown in for good measure, I decided to end my previous Seven Spires campaign and reboot the whole cosmology of my games in the process, by which I mean, the whole "meta-background" behind every session of every game I run as a GM -- they are all connected in the same multiverse in my mind. Though this idea was abstract up to that point, the reboot of the Seven Spires to Praemal cemented that idea and made it a concrete thing in my games. Today, in my home games, I would still consider the existence of a "Praemal Shade of the Eurth" to be a thing.

For context, you can read about the Seven Spires and the reboot of the campaign as the "Praemal Tales" on this previous blog post.

Most of my first Praemal campaign but for the second half of the last session have been detailed in that blog. Peruse at your own peril. I'm going to pass on the "let me tell you about my campaign" bit and let this blog take care of all the details. Ptolus was important in my evolution because it made me rediscover the open world games I had been known for as a GM in France some 10 years prior and had abandoned when I transitioned to 3rd edition and moved from France to Canada.

The more we played, the more the development of the campaign became organic and player driven. This led to entanglements with the characters friends and families, the bad guys of the campaign layering their schemes on top of it, and the whole thing took a life of its own that really re-energized me as a DM at the time, to the point that when our game in Bella Bella came to an abrupt end as the players moved away from the island at the end of the school year, I was left with a yearning for something different, something that would leave the dust of 3rd edition math and clockwork operation far behind, and concentrate on the things I really cared about in the game.

I didn't have a name for it at the time. It would take some months of hiatus and brainstorming for me to consider other versions of the game, transition through Castles & Crusades, find myself reading Monte Cook's OD&D books I had acquired at an auction to gradually rethink what I wanted out of my gaming through the Citadel of Eight blog and make my way back to the game that started it all, as far as I was concerned, the 1st edition Advanced game I played when I was 11 soloing through T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil.

This led later to a re-examination of Ptolus. I would then reboot the whole city and run Ptolus "in the past", rebuilding the city for it to match 1st edition rules and conceits, just like Ptolus grew out of the playtests of 3rd edition and meshed with its own rules and conceits. This was a huge telling experience, and this also provided the early prototypes for what would ultimately become the Prismatic Maze of the Marmoreal Tomb. The ideas that came to mind and were explored in those days would inform future creations and input I would have in my own projects and later with the project of The Hobby Shop Dungeon with Ernie Gygax.

You can still read the play by post of that 1st edition game starting here, on that thread of the RPG Site.

I don't want to make this too much of a long, excruciating read. If you are still reading this, or even better, if you were one of the long time readers of this blog and find yourself reading this post, congratulations, and thank you for your patience.

Much much fun was had with Ptolus, and it is still part of my campaign's cosmology. I left 3rd edition behind, and would probably only consider running it again using the City by the Spire as published, which in itself is a huge compliment on my part. Monte Cook went about various creations in a different way, creating his own rules light Cypher system, Numenera, and the rest is, as they say, history.

My path was different, brought me back to the origins of the game, re-energized my creative output, and convinced me I could create something of value for others to game with. From there, it would take some time, sharing material online, experimentation, and more gaming, before Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. and I would finally meet and spark up what has become a huge honor, a pleasure and responsibility, the most important creative project of my life, so far: the renovation of The Hobby Shop Dungeon, the Marmoreal Tomb project, and our joint partnership, GP Adventures LLC.

I owe some of that to Ptolus. And the community in which Ptolus came to be. And the friends I made in those days who convinced me I was a valued member of the community and had some things to share with other gamers like myself. So here's to you Ptolus, and all you friends who no doubt recognized yourselves. Thanks for the amazing memories, and the creative impetus it helped spawn in me.

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