Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pick Your Own Picaresque

For those not familiar with the term, picaresque refers to a novel that is largely episodic, without an overarching plot. A number of the Oz books fit into this mold. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz and The Road to Oz are the most picaresque of the Oz stories.

The Emerald City of Oz is a curious example, because while the Nome invasion plot thread clearly demonstrates rising action building to a climax, it is interspersed with a very picaresque tour of Oz. Even in more focused stories, like Glinda of Oz, there are often small encounters that do not feed into the main plot.

The only stories that do not feature picaresque elements are The Land of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and The Magic of Oz. While Patchwork Girl has characters wandering all over Oz, it is in support of the overarching plot of Ojo trying to rescue Unc Nunkie.

Gamers are familiar with the picaresque, though they might not think to call it that. Consider the typical "wandering adventurers" campaign. The heroes wander into town and discover some nasty bugaboo causing trouble. They seek out it's dungeon *ahem* lair, and stop the trouble. On to the next town. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you're running an AiO campaign, this basically means that you shouldn't be afraid to throw in something random and cool as your adventurers are on their way to the important stuff. Or throw in something random and cool when you can't think of an epic plot.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Inspired by this post.

One thing that's been missing from this blog has been adventure ideas. I put so many of them into the book itself that it felt like a pretty dry well. For the most part, I tried to avoid suggesting re-treading existing stories in order to emphasize the idea of making Oz your own.

But there is some mileage to be gained from going back to the classics. Just like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead provides some interesting insights into Hamlet, running an adventure that runs alongside an existing story can be fun.

For example, in The Lost Princess of Oz, four search parties set out to find Ozma, but we only see what happens to two of those search parties. What did the other parties encounter? What adventures did they have? The Magic of Oz is the story of how Trot and Dorothy got presents for Ozma's birthday. But what about some of the other gifts that Ozma received? What are the stories behind them?

And if you're ever stuck for a plot, just recycle an old one. Baum did it all the time. Ozma of Oz went on stage as The Tiktok Man of Oz and then came back to the novel series as Tik-Tok of Oz. Scarecrow of Oz runs Trot and Cap'n Bill through His Majesty the Scarecrow of Oz

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ozma's Birthday Sale!

From now until Saturday, August 20th, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is going on sale. You can purchase the print version (or the print/PDF bundle where allowed) for just $11.99, 20% off the cover price. That's the print version over at Lulu, RPGNow, and Drivethru RPG, or the Print/PDF bundle offered at RPGNow and DrivethruRPG.

And for those who have been paying attention, the PDF version has been repriced to $6.99, instead of its original price of $7.99. This is a permanent adjustment and is not part of the Ozma's Birthday Sale.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

While it's not my favorite topic, or one I have a lot of experience with, I want to touch on "dark gaming." Because people keep thinking that Oz: Dark & Terrible is a dark game.

In my mind, darkness is about evil as the dominant force in the setting. But one thing that people forget is that good is just as important to making a setting dark. Nothing makes us realize how dark it is like a momentary burst of light.

The Oz described in Gregory MaGuire's Wicked is dark because of the domination of the power-hungry Wizard. While Elphaba is an extremist, the fact that she is doing it for a cause that she (and we) believe is morally right, it is much easier to see her as the "good guy" in that scenario.

The Dark Oz comics published by Caliber show an Oz conquered by the Nome King, with a little help from Mombi. That's pretty dark right there. The only real ray of light here is the heroes, trying to free Ozma and restore her to the throne of Oz.

Oz: Dark & Terrible has lots of grey, but damn little true darkness. The Wizard has been transformed into giant animatronic head, but he is credited with genuinely good intentions toward the people of Oz. Glinda is trying to improve the lot of the primitive African Quadlings she rules over, but she's doing it by bringing in her fellow Gillikins to lead by example.

What little darkness we do get mostly comes in the form of Wicked Witches, notably the Wicked Witch of the West and Blinkie, the former Witch of the South. And both of them are simplistic, mustache-twirling evil (not that either of them have mustaches, but you get my point).

The other problem is that there is damn little light. Some character or aspect of the setting that is noble and good could make the whole setting a lot darker, even as it is, just by simple contrast. Judicious use of light could highlight those shadows ominously.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oz Character of the Month: The Wizard (Again)

First of all, thank you to everyone who participated in the poll last month. A few more responses than the last one, which I find encouraging. It looks like L. Frank Baum is the winner as everyone's favorite Oz author. 9 out of 15 votes went to him. His successor on the Famous Forty, Ruth Plumly Thompson, came in second with 3 votes. The number 3 slot goes to James Wallace II, author of the Magician of Oz trilogy with 2 votes. Although he did try to "win" the poll by getting people to vote for him (I may not post much, but I do check my Facebook regularly, James ;) Only one unclaimed vote this time around, so I'm going to give it to Ron Baxley Jr.

Last month's Oz character was a non-magical version of the Wizard. This version is the Wizard from later in the series, after he learned magic from Glinda. Even though this version is technically more experienced than the version from last month, both of them are built using the same rules for starting characters.

If you're wondering why, it's for a couple of reasons. First of all, there really aren't any rules for building advanced characters in the game. The second reason is that point of posting characters in the first place is to show people what types of characters can be built using just the basic rules.

Name: Oscar Zoroaster P.I.N.H.E.A. Diggs
First Appearance: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (though the Wizard didn't learn magic until sometime before The Road to Oz)
Size: 3

Basic Skills

Athletics: 1
Awareness: 2
Brains: 4
Presence: 4 (The Great and Powerful Oz)
Sneaking: 1
Wits: 2

Traits: Sorcery, Magical Toolkit, Poet

Friends List: Glinda
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