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Showing content with the highest reputation on 05/16/2017 in all areas

  1. 1 point
    Not that I feel strongly about any one particular place for next year, but....I'll just leave this here..... Pros: Has nearly everything we liked in Vegas, plus better food and more character. The food - Oh my god, the food! Beignets, pralines, gumbo, po-boys, jambalaya, crawfish, oysters, bananas foster, red beans & rice....... Escape Room place with rooms like The Voodoo Room, The Vampire Room, Haunted Swamp Room, around $30 per person. Ghosts, vampires, voodoo, creepy cemeteries. Cons: Smells funny at first Definitely need to go late fall to early spring. Maybe right after Mardi Gras for discounts.
  2. 1 point
    ALRIGHT I'M BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR. Act 3 is here. Act 3 is where you finish up the story. You want to resolve all the plot threads that you've given out so far (unless you're leaving some kind of hook for a new, future story) and close off the story so that your players can reach a satisfying conclusion. Act 2 is full of vectors, bouncing off and around on different issues, many of them incremental to whatever the big, fat main tension of your story is. Act 3 will typically have one vector and it will be compressed in time. If you're going to run only one event in tandem with your story, make it this one because the drama and tension are only heightened if everything comes crashing to a roaring conclusion here. Act 3 typically starts with a big, momentous decision from your character or characters, which is why you want to hit them on a personal level right at the end of Act 2 so that this decision and them being at their lowest coincide. This is the stuff of heroes. Characters that are beleaguered on all sides still standing up and fighting for themselves and what's right in the face of insurmountable odds. Act 3 is also where the stakes of your story sit. Whatever the stakes are or have been up to now, they need to be dwarfed by what you're rolling out for Act 3. If the difference between success and failure for the hero is too small and inconsequential, then you're losing out on a lot of tension and drama. This act 3 start is also right when your characters are complete. The character arc almost always completes at the end of Act 2 and beginning of Act 3 because you want them to make this decision here and contrast it with who they were way back in Act 1. The characters enter their final form (for this arc you're writing, anyway) and then face off against the villain when they're at their peak. The character that is incomplete in the third act isn't any of your protagonists; it's your antagonist. The third act is where your antagonist's inability to change, inability to overcome their flaws, and inability to complete themselves like the main characters have just demonstrated falls back in and implodes upon themselves. This is why villain double down on their villainous flaws and would rather die than change, in most cases. The principle characteristic that defines your antagonist in most instances is his inability to change like your characters do. That is his great weakness. That is why he fails, in the end, because even though he starts off with this great boost of confidence and power because he's satisfied with his incomplete self, that incompleteness will always crack and crumble in the face of a character that has overcome their flaws rather than built themselves on them. I'm going to go into this a bit more when it comes to villains, who really deserve a section all on their own, but this character consciousness is important for Act 3. If you're going to tell me that redemption villains don't fit this mold, don't worry I'll address that later. The short version is: you're right, but you really have to do your homework and dot your i's and cross your t's to get there. The long version is below. While Act 3 is where the villain falls apart, it's also where the villain is at their most menacing, threatening and dangerous. In most stories, this is because whatever the villain has been plotting has almost come to fruition, and just like the hero has been gaining power and abilities over the course of the ability, the villain has as well. (The heroes couple their power gain with overcoming their flaws/deficiencies. The villains do not, and typically, sell out themselves and make themselves more flawed in order to get the same boost in power.) This power will very frequently backfire on the villain, and just as quickly as its granted, also be taken away. But don't take that preceding bit to justify not letting your characters be awesome. Because Act 3 is where you take the ropes off and let your heroes be as super cool and awesome as they can be. During Act 2, you can beat up on your players, get under their skin, hand them defeats, because the promise at the end of the rainbow is getting to beat the shit out of McBaddie like a rock 'em, sock 'em robot. All that tension that you build up with failures in Act 2 gets released in Act 3, when they get to kick the snot out of the villain. But if you focus in too much on your villain's self-defeating nature and he kind of undoes himself with his bad bargains and flaws catching up with him, then you're not giving the characters a chance to relieve all that tension that you built up and then it festers and rots into unsatisfying frustration. Striking this balance, when you can hit it, works wonders. Because players like just as much to beat the tar out of someone while at the same time, being shown that that person's addiction to their own flaws is what made them fall. Because the heroes are almost always ideologically opposed to the villain, when the villain's ideology turns out to be rotten to the core and destroys him from within, watching that happen is super great. You're seeing that you were right all along, kind of thing. You can play with this a bit, too, if you want. Every villain should be sympathetic, and if you drive that to an extreme, you can have your characters sympathize with the villains so much so that it's a bittersweet victory. But in general, the bad guy is irredeemably bad and gets beaten pretty badly by the heroes anyway. It really depends. Back to Act 3 structure stuff for a second, there should almost always be a "twist in the third act" which is not about the overall tension, but about the act tension, essentially. The twist in the third act serves three big functions: 1) It breaks up the story a bit so that whatever strategy the characters walked into the third act with needs to also change. This creates a need for the story to adapt around this twist and become something different. When you don't do this, you just have punching and fighting for the whole third act and it can get a bit stale. 2) It refocuses the story from big stuff to small stuff. The first half of the Act 3 fighting typically happens on a very large scale, with large scale goals. It is when the big, epic, flashy stuff happens and the resolution to those big, epic, flashy things begins to really resolve. The twist almost always narrows the focus and drills it down into a single point. For LOTR, Gollum showing up in mount doom is the twist. The first half of the third act (with Sam and Aragorn playing high calibur double duty) sets up the stakes to the end of the massive conflict, but the twist focuses it in entirely on Frodo vs Gollum. Two husks, addicted to the ring, fighting over the fate of the world. When main characters, typically supporting characters, get mortally injured, that's the twist and the tension shifts from "saving the world" to "saving this person's life." When the villain injects himself with the unstable super serum and becomes a rampaging monster out of desperation, even if the stakes are the same or bigger, because we're drilling down to the conflict on just that one villain, it serves the same purpose. 3) It puts the initiative back in the villain's hands. When Act 3 begins, the hero is the one taking the initiative and implementing a plan and strategy to overcome the villain. If there's no twist, a lot of the time, there's no swapping of the initiative between the hero and the villain, and if that swapping doesn't happen then the story can get static. By giving the villain a moment to redefine the fight (because 90% of the time, the twist is a result of something the villain does,) you are making the story more dynamic and more of a back and forth between the protagonists and the antagonist. The twist can also go the opposite way, in the right circumstances. Instead of the twist being something that the villain does, (stab the love interest, hit the self destruct button, or drink the unstable potion) it can be something the hero does. If you stowed away 2 of your 8 characters to follow up later with backup, that's your twist, and it's executed by the hero. It shifts some structural stuff around (you need the characters in Helms Deep to be desperate in order for Gandalf arriving with the rohirrim to feel good) but with the right set up and context, it can be great. Once the characters adapt their strategy to contend with the twist, which places the initiative back in their hands, we're ramping up to the climax. The climax is the single point, the one thing that happens, the very moment where the most tension will be released. It's not a sequence, or a scene, or anything else, it's one action, really at the end of the day, it can be boiled down to one sentence. The ring falls into the lava of Mount Doom. The Death Star explodes. Tirion Fordring kills Arthas. Arthas kills his father. What this climax will look like will change depending on the story, and there will be different techniques for different contexts. I have some die hard habits, like I love the immediately pre-climax speech, either the hero explaining how much he's gained and learned and how good this will feel or the villain coming apart at the seems and choosing death over defeat, but whatever works for you works for you. But it's a big moment that you want everyone to focus on as much as possible. Your antagonist doesn't have to die here, but they do need to stop putting up a fight. This is where they lose. I actually want to dwell on this for a moment, because I'm going to address it more thoroughly later, but the antagonist needs to extremely definitively lose at this moment. What that loss looks like will also change in the context of the story, but a lot of the time it's going to be death. But there are other options, too. You can depower the villain (after having burned himself out trying to kill the heroes) and then have him escape. You can have the villain be captured. Hell, you can leave the villain in the hands of the heroes and let them come to their own decision on what to do with him. But I highly recommend death, and if you choose not to go with death, you better make sure that the heroes feel good about this defeat. Also, don't repeat something that you've already pulled before. If the heroes cornered the villain and he teleported away, you can't repeat that, because it'll just feel cheap and frustrate the players. If your villain gets thrown in jail and then he breaks out, you can't ever lock him up again, because the heroes have definitive proof that he'll bust out. I'm a very big fan of depowering villains. If they're a shadow priest, they become magic locked and can't cast any more. If they have some great weapon, it's taken from them at the very least, but shattered in the final fight preferrably (think Frostmourne.) If they're a paladin, the Light abandons them. These kinds of things. After the climax, your whole job is wrapping up plot threads and phasing yourself out of a GM role. Players are good at picking up the pieces to stories. Most players will grapple with what happened on their own and you don't need to coach them through it. If you're done with your story, they're probably going to extend some piece out of it and create their own non-GMed RP and that's great. In fact, I tend to think the mark of a great event/storyline is that people walk out of it grappling with it, and the fallout of it extends for a bit. In story terms, this is called the denouement (which I think is pronounced DAY-NEW-MAW, because it's french) and outside of NPCs that you've introduced or any items, locations, powers, anything you need to explain a resolution to, you should be hands off here. Let the players resolve their characters on their own. Don't force that. And even though it's technically not an act, I want to take a moment to acknowledge... Sequels RPers love continuity. It's why we police people's lore. It's why we constantly reference our backstories, or old stories that we took part in. I've never in my life met an RPer that RPed without an eye towards the larger continuity of the server, world, whatever. When you've finished your story, you're adding to that continuity. My recommendation first and foremost: don't continuity police your own story. In the same way that I think the best approach is to be hands off with the denouement of the story, be hands off with the continuity of it after the fact. People will adopt it into their RP and the characters naturally and you don't want to stymie that by hounding everyone that references things after the fact. I've seen this happen from time to time (and I super fall into this trap all the time) and it almost always has negative results. Interestingly enough, the results aren't purposefully negative. It's not malice. People don't get mad at you. But they do feel a distance from it. RP is the gift that you give other players, and your storyline is a gift that you give other players. Once it's over, don't try to own it or take it from them. Let them play with it how they want. If you become overbearing about it, it creates this weird sense that they're playing with someone else's property, and they put it down and put it away. This is the last thing you want. Let them pick it up and go from there. But when a story ends, especially a good story, there's always a huge temptation to create a sequel. You want to recapture the magic! You want to go back to your favorite places! Your favorite things! You want to get the band back together and go on another tour! And there's a part of me that really wants to shit on this impulse, but I actually kind of have a hard time doing so. I think sequels can be a trap, sure, but I also think that they're fun and RPers sign up for continuity, so get them on board. The big thing that I recommend when it comes to sequels (or spinoffs, also) is that you work hard not to invalidate the original story. The Two Towers is the sequel to Fellowship, but it doesn't retroactively shit on aspects of Fellowship. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen basically does. The defeat of the cube and megatron is basically unwritten in the opening minutes of Revenge of the Fallen because the Decepticons wake him up immediately. All the gains that had been made over the course of the first movie are instantly undone with that act. This is the kind of thing you want to avoid. If you killed your villain, keep him dead. Even if he's a likable villain that we all want to see more of. Just let him be dead and move on to something else, or someone else. His old apprentice tries to finish what his master started. Someone finds the shards of his old weapon and falls under the same curse when they reforge his blade. Someone who chased the villain all their life turns their focus on you for stealing the kill. Absolutely bring back old elements of the other story, NPCs, locations, what have you, but do yourself a gigantic favor and use that moment to create contrast. When you journeyed to the village enslaved by the McBaddie, it was barren and desolate, but when you return to fight McBaddie Jr, it's vibrant and alive. This contrast shows the characters the gains that they've made by completing that first story. And it gives them something to fight for (keeping McBaddie Jr from returning the village to the state they originally found it in.) Essentially, the failure state for the story becomes: back to square one, the positive changes that you've made are all erased. The last thing I want to mention when it comes to sequels is watching out for backstory bloat. Unless the group of people you're running for are exactly the same, which would be a miracle, you're going to have new people walking into this story who don't have the same basis for it that the long term holdouts do have. Boil that story into bite size chunks, throw away all the plot detritis and focus on what matters. A LOT of stuff is going to have happened during your first storyline, but let everything that's not absolutely essential go. And don't cater only to the people that have been here before. It can be easy to get wrapped up in collective nostalgia, especially when one player shares your enthusiasm for your story, but don't let that become a barricade keeping new people out. Yes, the relationships that have been forged and changed over the course of the first story matter, and you don't want to trample any of that stuff, but make sure that you as the GM are being as welcoming and open as possible when it comes to these folks joining the storyline team. Creating plot hooks for new folks to get on board, things tailored to them and their characters and their skillset, that's a one way ticket to an engaged player, even one who's new to your story. Don't be haphazard. Don't give them a thread that you could have given to anyone. Give them a thread made for them, that only they could take. If people see you going out of your way to get their character on board on THEIR terms rather than your terms, you're going to get a great response from them. ------------------------------------------ Alright, so that's my act structure breakdown. I have a lot more that I want to address and talk about, but I'm not really sure what I want to get into next. If there's something that I've mentioned that you want to get some more thoughts on, let me know. Here are some topics that I want to cover in future BaernRantz: -McGuffins -Villains -Tropes/Cliches -Lorebreaking/Lorebending/Lorepolicing -Creating character arcs for characters you don't control -Creating stakes Shit, I'm sure there's more. IDK I'm going to just keep posting until I've exhausted my own well of unorganized thoughts that I want to get on paper.
  3. 1 point
    Not just because I live there, I'd like to pitch a bit about Los Angeles. Pros: -Having locals means cars, parking, pickups from LAX are super easy -LAX is one of the most important airports in the country, flights are easy, cheap and direct -The weather will be nice even during the off-season so winter trips can still be sunny and warm -Disneyland, Universal Studios and Six Flag are all awesome destinations for day trips -Transportation is easy (Arahe, myself and Seguul are all locals with cars seating 15 people just between the three of us.) -Renting beach houses/hollywood houses is straightforward and easy. (Like this place with a heated pool and hot tub.) -People who need to be cheap can chill in the apartments of the locals for freesies. -Locals have the in on cool places, like Karaoke, Korean BBQ, Bars, and Clubs off the beaten path Cons: -Driving is the main mode of transport -Pacific ocean is cold as fuck -Long trek for East Coasters -Just did a West Coast centric TNGCon The thing that I think works best about LA is that because we have locals (5 of whom went to Vegas this year) we have a lot of flexibility when it comes to pricing, entertainment, activities, you name it. The flights into LAX are cheap ($300 from Boston to LAX) and direct (people were doing layovers in LAX to go to Vegas!) and transportation would basically be provided for free from those locals. Housing could easily split into folks that want to rent a party house and folks that want to crash on couches because they need to be cheap. The money that you're saving on housing? Well, now you've got cash for your Disneyland trip or Universal Studios trip.
  4. 1 point
    My main reason for not going this time was a lack of vacation hours for family vacations. Going forward, I can budget those hours a bit better and perhaps attend! I like the idea of Boston, but I would go one step further and say Cape Cod. One can still get to Boston pretty easily, but it's Cape Cod! Beach houses are nice, and I don't care what Shaelie says! I know that Cape Cod has some cool lighthouses, nice beaches, and some amazing seafood (which I'm all about). Dunno what resorts/hotels/whatevers are there. For New Orleans: Pros -Unique culture, food, atmosphere, and entertainment -Casinos, jazz houses, and interesting night life, as well as some familiar vacation things -Mild winter/early-spring season (but watch out for the rainy season...) -All the booze, both cheap and expensive Cons -No, seriously, watch out for the rainy season! -Hot as balls in the late spring and summer months -Not -hard- to get to, but maybe out of the way for both West Coasters and New Englanders -Stay away during Mardi Gras
  5. 1 point
    The major thing that prevented me from going this year was timing. But, I should be in the United States again in late March. So if it were to happen in early March or April, for example... Just saying! Once I'm in the U.S. though, getting around the country isn't a huge deal. I'll already have flown around the world, so hopping to another state from California is a breeze. Or road trip it with Fhen and Xara.