2013 is Gone, What Shall I Do?

It’s been a sporadic year for gaming here on Rilmorn and today is the last day of the Roman Year.  I’ve enjoyed the games I’ve run and the parts of the world that I have designed, but I have wanted to do more.  So, with this in mind, I have decided to write up a few goals for 2014.

  1. Stop Story Arcs  I’ve been trying to run story arcs since 3E and I’m poor at it.  I do much better at creating multiple, big villains, having them run their agendas and letting the PCs decide who to challenge.  This lets the story develop organically.  The players become more involved.  It does not require me to keep steering the PCs back to the filled in portions of the map.
  2. Build Up My Map Collection   When I ran games among a group that shared multiple DMs, I was known as the Last of the Mapmakers.  My maps were not always good, but they were notable.  Players could mark on them.  They carried hidden symbols, previous owners’ marks, and, once, a coded message.  I fell out of that behavior, especially with the focus on tactical mapping and combat in 3E and 4E.  Since, I  have GIMPand other map tools, I will up my game again.
  3. Explore Iolta and Thrain  I designed a section of my world where I was going to run games using DnD Next playtest rules.  I never really got to play in that portion of Ryllmorrinn. Time to start.
  4. Make Use of Languages  I’ve made multiple “language trees,” since I read the articles in Dragon Magazine, issue #66.  I’ve quit using multiple languages, since supernal appeared in 4E and it allows the speaker to understand and be understood by anyone with who he or she is speaking.  I’m killing supernal for future games and giving power back to those players which really enjoy their PC being the translator and spy for the party in foreign settings.
  5. Have Fun  I need to do the things that help me enjoy the game, too.  NPCs with odd agendas.  Random encounters that may or may not ever have a bearing on the campaign.  (It will all depend on the players.)  Make maps…lots and lots of maps.  Use whatever ideas come to mind, at the first opportunity.  Enjoy the game for the simple joy of enjoying the game.

Game On!

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“Games Are Like Ogres…

They have layers,” to amend Shrek.  I believe a good game world is one that goes deeper the more the players dig.  Having said that, I don’t believe that one can build a layered world from the ground up, one has to game in a world to get layers.

Rilmorn started as a wilderness map leading from the country of Greyhawk” to the “Underground City of Lungold” and an unfinished dungeon map (which already had several ideas swiped from B1 – In Search of the Unknown.  I had certain ideas about what was what in my game.  “Murder Wood” had giant spiders; yes, I had read The Hobbit.  The Baldorions had leucrotta in them; thanks to an illustration in the Monster Manual.  Lungold was a city, so I was going to put in bathrooms, public baths, and a sewage system (a series of small tunnels with one foot cube-sized gelatinous cubes to clean up the waste).  I had no idea of scale, when I started my overland map.  I just knew I wanted it to take the PCs days to get to the dungeon.  I knew that there were inns in Olde England and Middle Earth, so I put in roads and inns with colorful animal names.  I saw such a name in the Dungeon Masters Guide, the “Green Griffin.”  I wanted the PCs to go by my road to Lungold, so the river was deep and dangerous to cross and a section of the map was labeled “quicksand.”  Even with all of that, it took several games to start layering in the details.

The first session in, my players asked why their characters couldn’t ride straight north to the dungeon.  At that moment, the valleys and hills through that area became so steep, they would extremely slow travel and the Old River Road was the quickest way to Lungold.  The second night on the road brought the characters to the Green Dragon Inn.  I decided on a whim that the innkeeper at the Green Dragon was a skinflint and overcharged his guests.  After that, the PCs chose to camp away from the Green Dragon, rather than pay the steep prices.  Some games later, the PCs met some dwarves heading to the Baldorions, as the PCs headed south from Lungold.  The dwarves complained to them about the awful service they got at the Green Dragon Inn.

Some games later, my players wanted to know why the inns had such “colorful” names and I said that each inn was built on a site where either a creature of that type was killed or a group of those animals had lived.  For a long time after that announcement, the PCs would see a hawk hunting and the hawk would be black.  The only type of dragon they knew existed, for many months of play, was the green, chlorine-breathing type; all related to the one who gave its life for the name of an inn.  (If I were still running this map and set up, I’d have the innkeeper be cursed to be as greedy as a dragon, because of the dying curse of the eponymous green dragon.  A new layer of which I just thought.)  Horse traders would offer them special deals on “yellow horses,” when the PCs needed new mounts.

Even later, the PCs would discover a dwarven mine in the Baldorians.  The leaders of the mines were the complaining dwarves from the Green Dragon.   Each of these things made the game world richer for the players.

When I ran the dungeon for a new group of players, I had changed the name to Mythgold, because I didn’t want to get sued for plagiarism, if I ever published my game.  When asked why the abandoned city was in such good shape, I came up with the idea of a self repairing dungeon.  The magic of the wizards restored every non-living thing to its proper place.  (My previous PCs had never stayed overnight in the dungeon, so the magic that restored things did not effect items removed from, then returned to Mythgold.)  This group of player characters was particularly vandalistic, so I had great fun describing the magically restored furniture and repaired food crates, as they were leaving the dungeon.  Later adventuring parties found many walls with perfectly mortared holes in them.  Holes, once graced with gems, thanks to that party of characters.

Every time I have run Mythgold, I’ve used things that I or my players created or did to make Mythgold richer.  The layers are deep and I can quickly answer most any question a player asks about the Underground City.  I have an overly detailed history of Mythgold.  My Dungeon Key is way too detailed for my own good.  Every game adds a new coat of paint to a world.  I try to use those layers to give Rilmorn a verisimilitude not found most games.  Not every campaign needs depth, but it helps to hold the suspension of disbelief, if one, at least. uses the layers created in previous games.  Until next time, Game On!

“Don’t Borrow, Steal”

I’ve read every module, Dragon and Dungeon magazine and looked at every map that he owns and I expect to see everything I’ve read in his game someday.  I just don’t expect to recognize it.

Mike Magee

Circa 1987

Good gamemasters borrow.  Great gamemasters steal.

Unknown

The first quote is from a good friend of mine and a former and future player in the World of Rilmorn.  Mike expressed an unwritten rule of my world design.  Take pieces that you like from other works and put them into your own game.  By the time, Mike and I started gaming together, I had 5+ years GMing under my belt.  During those years, I had had players suddenly decide that their characters were far more interested in the “Lands Unknown” sections of my map than any planned adventure.  Well, when that happened I saw three choices: 1) Force my players to adhere to my story plan, 2) Pout, pack up, and go home, or 3) Improvise.  Having been “railroaded to  plots” or guilt-tripped into following other GMs’ adventures, the first  option was out.  Going home wasted the whole plan of having fun with my friends, so #2 was out.  Thus, I improvised.

Some times, improv comes easy.  Other times, the process stalls.  During those stalled processes, I would get my players to talk amongst themselves and I would grab a book, module, or magazine and start flipping pages.  As quick as I found something that caught my eye, I’d regain my players attention and off we’d go.  I’d keep as good notes as possible during the game, then later I’d add what I had used to Rilmorn.

Over time, I began to see things that were cool that others did and wanted those things in Rylmorin.  I’d already been borrowing other’s ideas, when I had to improvise.  Why couldn’t I just add what ever I liked to my game?

WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF and INTERNALLY CONSISTENT WORLD.  One of the major problems that all gamemasters have to face is the “Willing Suspension of Disbelief.”  For the period of game, people who live in a non-magical world must accept that their characters are in a world where magic happens and that they are part of that world.  To help players suspend their disbelief, GMs need to keep their worlds internally consistent.  If one designs a world with a particular theme or trait and, suddenly, drops something into that world that violates that theme or trait, then the players are going to be jarred out of their disbelief.  This led me to the second quote.

Borrowing something implies that you intend to return it and in relatively the same condition as it was before it was borrowed.  When it comes to Rilmorn,  I can’t just borrow things for my world.  A borrowed object stands out.  It is still sharp around the edges. When you steal something for a game, you plan on keeping it and you do what you need to do to make it a good fit.

When I began my BIG 4E game, I stole the Secpter Tower of Spellgard.  I changed the spelling and the location of the ruins to place them in Rilmorn.  I put a portal from Sigil to Spellguard, so my PCs could have a way to the ruins and for me to be able to add future adventure hooks.  I changed the halfling wererats to dwarven wererats, since there are so few halflings on Rilmorn.  I linked Spellgaurd to Castle Timeless (an extradimensional realm involving time and time travel).  Saharel became a temporally displaced chronasarian.  The undead below Sceptre Tower (changed spelling again) became “time-riven dead,” beings that were some how bond to the disaster known as the “Fall of the Castle.”  The Monks of the Precipice became guardians of a cave under their monastery that opened into a “Gulf of Time.”  Kuryon became a blue dragonborn from Sigil, who went back in time to found the Fortress State of Arkohsia (already introduced in a previous 4E game).  The main villain of the story was renamed Thalen and linked to Galen, a big villain from the end of one of my other campaigns.  Sister Chera became a disguised deva.  Etc.  I tied the adventure to my world.

If you like something and want it in your world, take it.  You need a powerful, busybody wizard to direct the PCs actions.  Take Elminster.  Rename him: Elfmiester.  Shave his beard and dress him in red robes.  Make him Master Librarian in the port city of Palanthus who likes to send adventurers out on his ship Firefly to explore dungeons hidden on nearby islands.  Take what you need and blend it into your world and it will work.  Game On!

“Sunshine on my Shoulder Makes me Happy!”

Image

 This is a nice bit of happy.  Epic Heroes nominated me for a Sunshine Award, now it is not a Pulitzer, but in many ways it is better.  It is an opportunity to help others find new cool things in the blogshere.  Thank you, Tony Powers.  Here’s how it works.

1) Use the logo above in the post.

2) Link to whoever nominated you.

3) Write ten pieces of information about yourself.

4) Nominate ten fellow bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogsphere.”

5) Leave a comment on the nominees’ blogs to tell them of the award.

Now, we come to ten pieces of info about me:

1. I started gaming on wet, Sunday afternoon in March of 1979; I was 15.

2. My world did not have a name until my players asked me, “What world are we playing in?”

3. My first dungeon was called Lungold, the Underground City of Wizards.  I got the name from Patricia McKillup’s trilogy Riddle of Stars.

4. Even though I was originally very excited about 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, I did not switch over to 2E for 4 years and I only did it then, because none of my new players had 1st edition books.

5. I switched to 3E the day it was released.

6. I like to change the spelling of my game world every time I run a new campaign.  It is always pronounced “RIL-more-in,” but can be spelt multiple ways in the same document.

7. Relmorrin has a 26 hour day, because I was being contrary.  I wanted my players to “get” that their characters were not on Earth, so I told them that Rilmorn has 2 suns, 3 moons, and a 26 hour day.

8. I am very disappointed in 4E.  All the powers seem to blend together and it there is very little to distinguish a “mage” from a “fighter,” a “fighter” from a “rogue,” etc.

9. I have run games in Rilmorin under each of the following rule sets: Basic Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D or 1E), Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Second Edition (2E), Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition (3E), Dungeons and Dragons: Fourth Edition (4E), and DnD Next.

10. I started this blog, because my wife thought I should have a forum to just talk about gaming and my world.

Here are my 10 nominees:

1. Frülingskabine Micro-Farm – Sarah was the inspiration that started my wife, Christina, blogging.  I, personally, think she’s a hobbit.

2. Coven Tree Micro Farm – My wife’s blog.

3. The Games Librarian – A great blogger with a vast array of role playing games, who posts great reviews and dissections of game systems, adventures, and adventure paths. (2014.06.14)

4. Inside the Shadowbox – Matt Harris is a passionate Gamer and Game Master, who also writes some astounding fiction. (2014.06.14)

…Sad thing is: I just started this game and the only other bloggers I know have already gotten this award.  I may try to add more later. Game On!

Try, Try Again

I feel that last night’s post rambled and was too wordy.  What I wanted to show, with that post, is how I have used non-Dungeons and Dragons and non-fantasy systems, tropes, and objects in Rilmorn.

Time Travel – I took Time Lords from Dragon issue 65 and modified them into Chronasarians, a subclass of Psions as a Player Character Class.  I ran a whole campaign with a time travel subplot running through it.  The first player to run a Chronsarian in my game often asked “What’s my T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time And Relative Dimension In Space)?”

Species Interfertility – There are seven primary races on Rilmorn – Diavla, Dwarves, Elves, Humans, Idré, Kularin, Orcs.  Collectively, they are called the “Seven Races of Marn.”  A member of any of the marn races can produce viable offspring with a member of any of the Races of Marn.  Thus, an elf could be ashamed that his great-great grandmother was an orc or a dwarf could be amphibious because his mother’s father was a water-dwelling idré.  Orcs are a special case and they can have children with any hominid species; ergo orc/trolls, orc/hobgoblins, orc/humans, orc/lizard men, orc/troglodytes, orc/etc.

Space Ships/Science Tech – I already talked about Gamma World and the Legion of Gold, but that is not the only “sciency stuff” I used in Rilmorn.  The ship map out of the City of the Gods became a buried city in my Tharsi (i.e. Viking) campaign.  The PCs never entered the city, but they did encounter a group of nomads that wintered on the surface of the buried spaceship in the Forest of Spinning Leaves.  The nomads were fearful of the Golden Gods that sometimes came out of the ground to drive them away from the warmth and protection of the forest.  The Golden Gods were the androids from Legion of Gold and the Spinning Leaves were the solar collectors from the Terran space stations in StarCraft.  The Jirai, a society of tree-revering magi, were based on the Jurai from Tenchi Muyo—they also came to Rilmorn in a crashed spaceship.  A colony of illithid on Selune, the middle moon of the three moons orbiting Rilmorn, makes and uses tech from Gamma World (7th edition), E3 trading company took some of their tech, when they fought them

Guns – As I mentioned in the last post, some PCs came back from The Keep with firearms.  I let them keep them and magically retroengineer ammo.  Decades later Monte Cook gave us Ptolus and now E3 Trading Company sells black market weapons smuggled out of Ptolus.

These are just some the ways Rilmorn is different than “Traditional D&D.”  I don’t think they’ve ever broken the game, but I do think they’ve added some unique moments to play in Rilmorn.  Game On!

“But, That’s Not DnD!”

Rilmorn is a D&D world.  It started as a dungeon with a wilderness map.  In time, I added a city map, then came the BIG continent map.  I stole gods and pantheons from history, mythology, and Dragon Magazine.  I lifted names and words out of Tolkien’s Silmarillion (“Rilmorn” translates into “Bright Darkness”).  Witch World and Gwynedd were the bones upon which I applied the flesh of Rilmorn.  For many years, I ran a pseudo-medieval, Euro-styled, fantasy game.  Yet, even in those early days, I couldn’t help but stretch the boundaries of my world; it got more extreme.

Dungeons and Dragons was originally about exploring underground labyrinths and strongholds, while battling monsters.  I was fairly standard and followed those guidelines, when I first began, but I wanted more for my game.  Dungeons and cities existed in places with cultivated and wild lands.  I built very a basic ecology to explain what the bigger monsters fed upon.  I tried to build societies in which the PCs could interact.  I attempted to provide my players with the illusion of a living world in which they could suspend their disbelief while we played our D&D games.

Because I knew that I didn’t have all the answers on how to do such things, (Truth be told I did not even know that that was what I was doing) I took from other sources to make what I hoped was a better game.  I added names for magic weapons and items from the role playing game Bushido.  I dropped the Gamma World module Legion of Gold into one game.  I used magic effects tables from Man, Myth, and Magic.  I loved the Middle Earth Role Playing Critical and Fumble tables.  Some of it worked, some didn’t.  Then I began to let my players design things both in-character and out-of-character.

Suddenly, I had monster teleportals hidden in caves under my main city of Kardon.  Some of my PCs were humans mixed with giant blood.  I got a square lake on my main continent, Moytonia, when my ideas of world building clashed too much with a friend’s ideas.  An PC elf rolled up a merchant family empire from tables  in Oriental Adventures.  PCs began running around with World War II style guns, after we played The Keep from Mayfair Games.  A pro-psionic PC founded a psionic monastery and warrior order, built massive weapons using psionic power, and established a culture that was pro-psionics and anti-magics–all of which led to the Wolf Wars that redefined the nature of my world.

Years have passed. My PCs have been vikings born in a world, whose dangers have included cities of robots, undead kingdoms, and tribes of wolfmen.  Others have been desert dwelling heroes, who fought against weapons left over from the Wolf Wars and defeated a version of Acererak that was attempting to meld the heroes reality with one that would have given Acererak nigh unlimited power.  Still others were an all elven musical band that defeated an invasion from the Far Realm.  Now, I have PCs that have gone from simple adventurers exploring ruins and getting gold to merchant lords traveling the world in a flying,  steam-powered ship, while attempting to continue building the city that they founded and restoring a mystical wood hidden in another dimension.  Other PCs have decided to become gypsies and are enhancing a magical network that allows them speedy travel from one place to another.

Deviating from the D&D Standard, sure has given me a fun world.  Game On!

2013

This year is winding to a close, so I want to talk about my gaming for this year.

Much of my gaming in 2013 was dedicated to running a game for Christina and friends from my Emory Days in the location of Spellguard.  I took the DnD 4E module Scepter Tower of Spellgard added a link from Sigil to the Ruins of Spellguard and dropped the PCs off there.  Over several sessions, I altered the maps to fit my needs and integrated the setting more firmly into Rylmoryn.  I had hoped that they would select Spellguard to be their base and attempt to restore it.  They did and turned their adventuring party into a trading company.  They are E3 Trading.  They are coming to the end of their adventures…soon, they will encounter the Giants in the Earth and seal the Holes to the Far Realm.

My brother-in-law, his children, and Christina‘s PCs were supposed to be based in the Village of Barovia and learn what drove their ancestors (descendants of the heroes that defeated Strahd von Zarovich) from their home in Castle Ravenloft.  They decided to become Sanderzani (the gypsies of Rhyllmorrin) and are now masters of the Shadowfell Road.  Recently, we converted from 4E to DnD Next, using the playtest packet from Wizards of the Coast.

My last gaming foray for 2013 was my design of the setting in which I intended to run all my DnD Next games, Iolta and Thrain.  It is based on several modules and setting books from 1E Dungeons and Dragons.  I haven’t ran a single game there, but did have fun building it.

Just days to go and still lots of things to do for gaming in 2013.

World Engineer

Hello, I’m Gregory.  My wife, Christina (Please check out her blog), has told me to not over think this and just write…so, I’m trying.  This blog will be my attempt to share with you what I do in gaming.  I started gaming with Basic Dungeons and Dragons on a Sunday afternoon in late March 1979(it was cold and rainy).  Now, I’ve been running games in my world of Rilmorn for over thirty years.

My blog address is GameEngineer.worpress.com, because WorldEngineer.wordpress.com was already taken.  I don’t think I’m really a game engineer.  Game engineers are people like Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell.  I think I’m a world engineer.  I build societies and cities for my players to explore.  I design natural terrain, both mundane and fantastic in which my games reside.  I embody non-player characters (NPCs) with which the player characters (PCs) interact.  I weave plots and bait story hooks.  I act out wild scenes to engage the people at my table.  Sometimes, I create mechanics to facilitate the workings of the world, but most of the time, I just build a setting and use the game engineered designs of others.

Boy, that sounds dry and stilted to me.  Hope it is not so much to you, good reader.  Until we meet again, May your days be filled with dreams and your nights with wonders.  Game On! (2014.10.04)