Sticks and Stones (or What Special Materials Have Appeared on Rilmorn)

D. over at Fluer du mal posted about the materials used to make magic items in his games. It got me thinking about the special materials that have appeared on Rilmorn.  Here is my post on those thoughts.

Way back in the day, I was seventeen and not nearly as well read or knowledgeable as I thought I was, but I knew enough about copyright and plagiarism that I didn’t want to do it.  Even back at the beginning I wanted to publish my game world, so I couldn’t use “mithril,” since that came from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Thus, I named my star silver metal argentyl.  Since those early days, other materials have made their way into my games, but argentyl is still the most likely to appear.

Ages ago, I read H. Warner Munn’s Merlin’s Godson and Merlin’s Ring and from it I got the impression that orichalcum was milky-gold in color, extremely strong, and had not magical properties, but magical affecting properties.  Thus, I introduced two forms of orichalcum into Rillmorn.  The first was simply swords made of an orichalcum and iron alloy that had “pluses to hit and damage,” but were not magical.  A +2 orichalcum blade would retain its attack and damage bonuses even if its wielder were in an anti-magic zone.  The second way in which orichalcum appeared was in the form of “spell breakers.”  Spell breakers were magical daggers that could be used to “kill” incoming spells.  If a spell breaker wielder had his weapon ready when a spell was cast, the wielder could make an attack roll against the spell’s armor class, if the wielder hit the AC in question the spell “broke.”  Spell breakers were useless in combat.  Spell breakers haven’t been seen since before my USM days and the last orichalcum blade to appear was the one found by Alkin du Fey Duncan and it was rumored to be a pure orichalcum (a +5 weapon) blade.

I do not remember when I came up with the idea of trollsilver, but it was wildly popular for several games.  Before there were spell foci in D&D, a spellcaster using an object made trollsilver to cast a spell could roll a d6 to see how the trollsilver empowered the spell.  On a 1 or 2, the duration of spell increased threefold.  On a 3 or 4, the range and area of effect increased three times.  On a 5 or 6, the “power” of the spell increased by three: IE – 6th level fireball would do 18 dice of damage instead of 6 dice.  Trollsilver faded into the background after a just a few adventures.

One of the rarest of all gemstones on Rilmorrin is the prismate.  Prismate is a gem forged stone.  Gem forging is a psionic/magical art that blends two or more precious or semiprecious stones into a single stone.  Prismates are made up of the dust of numerous gemstones and when completed each facet is a different color.  Only one magic item ever has ever been found with a prismate as part of it.  A flawed prismate was the pommel stone of the sword Policrom.  Prismates still appear occasionally in treasure hoards around the world.

While I’ve used other materials in Rimoranic history, but I think these are the best.  What materials have you created for your games?

Game On!

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The Monster Mash (or Guess what Book Gregory Got for Christmas)

I know I am late to this party, but I just got this great book four days ago.  Now, my first idea was to write up a glowing review of why this is a really strong monster manual, but there are enough of those already out there.  So, I’ve decided to write about monsters that may play a defining role in my Pellham campaign, how the 5E Monster Manual will help or hinder use of those monsters, and My Plan on their use in my games.

Fomorians: In myth and legend Fomorians are among the great foes of the Tuatha de Dannan.  I’ve not used them much at all in my games, because earlier editions of D&D presented them as weak, deformed giants, not as foes worthy of rivalling gods.  This all changed with 4E and at last here were foes worthy of heroes!  Since I am running a Celtic-style game in my Pellham campaign, Fomorians seem like natural choices for opponents.  While I am thrilled that many of monsters in 5E have returned to previous versions of themselves, I am saddened by the Fomorians demotion to lesser giants.  My Plan: Ignore the 5E version of Fomorians and use my 5E conversions of 4E Fomorians.

Hags and Dryads: I’ve used dryads for years as oracles and sharers of knowledge.  Hags have played similar roles in my games, but in more sinister ways and often as villains meant to fought and destroyed.  While hags often come in my games in packs of three, dryads only recently gained that particular feature.  When my wife and I took a trip a few years back, we saw three trees grown together at the edge of a small river.  Looking at those trees I saw a set of dryad sisters and immediately placed them in Rhillmoran.  5E gives me strong descriptions of dryads and hags and cool rules for hag covens.  My Plan: Introduce my PCs to Kirke, Medea, and Trakiya of the Coven Tree, expand on the stories of Oak, Ash, and Thorn, and place a couple of hag covens around to cause trouble.

Blights: Never used blights in any of my games, but they are going to appear in days to come.  My Plan: Integrate blights into N2: The Forest Oracle.

Shambling Mounds: I’ve used shambling mounds as the big bosses in more than one swamp or garden-gone-bad.  The 5E version contains enough information to run a solid encounter or three.  My Plan: Enter the Fens and face the terrors within.

Looks like plants are the big monsters in this campaign.  What monsters are likely to show up in your games?

Game On!

Curses! Foiled Again! (or Gregory Should Quit Rereading Modules)

Gripe!  Gripe!  Whine!  Whine!

I been rereading some of my old modules and have discovered a GREAT way to blend C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness with UK4: When a Star Falls and blend it with the Galen and Cataclysm event from the established history of Rhillmoran.  Hellfire and Brimstone!  I may end up in Castle Timeless after all. (2014.12.23)

Another great and terrible thing about all of this is that I can use the NPCs to expand out the people in Brie and place an established, back story NPC into a role in The Ghost Tower of Inverness.

I may have finally learned how to use modules after 30+ years of gaming!

Game On!

Post Script: It occurred to me that I need to give credit where credit is due about this post.  If D. from “Flower of Sickness” had not commented and suggested I see about adapting U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, then I wouldn’t have been looking through old modules.  Thus it is my pleasure to curse him and thank him for helping me expand and  improve my game.  If you have not checked out Fluer du mal, please do so; he’s got a really good blog. (2014.12.23)

Reoccurring Themes (or Gregory, Don’t go There Again)

I’ve been working on where I expect or hope my Pellham campaign is going and I’ve found myself looking at some familiar territory.  There are types of stories that I like.  I like alternate dimensions stories.  I like time travel stories.  I like Faery stories.  I like to use them in my games, too.  I like them a lot.  In addition to ideas and themes for my games, these stories also connect to places in Rhillmoran; places I have used again and again.  My Pellham campaign has seeds of these stories it and they are leading me back to my favorite, but possibly overused, stories and places.  I wonder if I need to break away from my favorite stories.

Castle Timeless has been a staple of my games since the 1980s.  It has been a rare campaign that did not see at least one trip to Castle Timeless.  During the Giants in the Earth and the Tasque Elzeny campaigns, Castle Timeless got a makeover.  I’ve been thinking about using Castle Timeless, because of a few throw away lines and plot point in the backstory of C5: Llywelyn’s Bane.  It, also, doesn’t help that C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (one of the other modules slated for use in the Pellham campaign) has an often missed time travel component.  Going to Castle Timeless certainly places Pellham in Rhillmoran, but it opens up a whole can of wyrms in that it will tempt me to run a time travel mini campaign and I’ve done that time and time again.

Faery locales are going to be part of this campaign.  I’ve already placed Ardenmore in Adran Silverleaf’s back story.  So, how do I keep from retreading old ground?  My fey folk and fey realm should be different than they have been before.  This is going to be hard, since I like my fey to have a Celtic sensibility and Pellham is a Celtic-style setting.  It doesn’t help that I’ve got a “Hollow Hills opening on the Night of a Full Moon” idiom running with this, too.  I guess I’ll just have to turn these fey “up to 11” and go full bore with them.  Make them the Fey of the Fey and play it for all that it is worth.  They are capricious, enigmatic, and dangerous benefactors and patrons.  They are brave, valiant, and noble allies and villains.  Their plans and their beliefs are not easily understood by mere mortals, even if those mortals are their elven descendants and cousins.  It should be great fun, if I can play it right; I’ve misplayed this style of NPC multiple times before.

I don’t see how I can get away from alternate dimensions in this campaign.  If the PCs follow through the entire plot as devised by the modules, then they must enter an alternate dimension.  I’ve did a lot of development on this alternate dimension for a failed campaign (outside forces pulled Players away), so I may be able to make this work for me.  The provided storyline only has the PCs there for a relatively short time and the alternate dimension is completely unlike the rest of the setting, so this could easily work to my advantage.  I’ve got an “alien,” but not lethal environment into which the PCs can adventure.  It plots well and is part of the module collection, so if I use it and it alone, then I should not get caught up in a plane hopping campaign, which can really be fun.

Having covered my “big” flaws in the previous three paragraphs, I must now move on and discuss a harder drive in my gaming themes.  I want to connect this game to other games that I have run.  I’ve been thinking about placing a connection to the Shadowfell Road in Pellham or Inverness; this would open up a connection to Moytonia and I would be tempted to pull things from Barovia and the Walking Wood into Iolta and that might dilute this setting.  I really want to place a connection to Castle Timeless and I’ve already explained why that is a bad idea.  While I have not yet designed them, I know there are magical trees in Pellham and they could easily be connected to the Quan.  Even though this campaign takes place over a thousand years after Giants in the Earth and Tasque Elzeny, a connection to the Quaan would let me access Feldspar, E3 Trading Company, and Spellguard.  While a link on Thrain to the World of Terah would allow me to bring threats from the Caves of Chaos and possibly connect the PCs to the Isle of Celestia and the Dreamers, it would be bringing in alternate dimensions.

Want to know what reeks in all of this; writing out this post has given me a half dozen or more ideas that I now am interested in dropping into the Pellahm campaign.  What do you think I should do?

Game On!

Plots and Prophecies (or Gregory Learns Something About Running Modules)

We gamed our second session of the Pellham Campaign on December 6th and it went off without a hitch.  It was a joy to run and seemed to be a hit with my Players, too.  I got to run with my PCs goals and use ideas from the modules that I picked as the basis for this campaign.  In running this game, I may have discovered the best way for me to run modules.  It was great!

Two things came into play from the Players’ side of the table.  Firstly, I got to introduce part of James Andari’s work on The Prophecy.  Before James (Adran’s Player) had even seen a copy of the Prophecy, he came up with five ways the Prophecy could be fulfilled.  They are 1) Llywelyn could simply reappear, 2) Llywelyn could return through a blood relative, 3) Llywelyn could return in the form of someone who shared a similar history and ideology, 4) someone raised outside Pellham would come take the throne just as Llywelyn was and did, and 5)Llywelyn could be stored to “life” by a powerful druid or necromancer.  I used this framework to introduce a Claimant to the Throne.  Secondly, the “Sons”…I mean the “Soldiers of Anarchy,” took out their first target.  The SoA is a movement (started by Vadis Mal and Stone (played Brandon Mokofisi and Steven Goff, respectively) dedicated to freeing slaves and punishing slavers.  The Soldiers of Anarchy took on and eliminated their first target, a kidnapper and pimp named Joshua.  Cool things.

On the GM’s side of the table, I got to expound a bit on a landmark in the city of Widdershin (the Pillars of Nimra) and hint at a future plot line (Stephen, heir of Llywelyn).  I had a blast dropping new NPCs into the game, but I am still bad at giving them names (ergo: Thug and an unnamed dwarf).  I, also, discovered a few things that help me run canned adventures and this should be the bulk of my post.

Firstly, I need to look for modules and adventures that can be easily sandboxed.  Since C3: To Find a King was written as competition module, it comes in easily separated sections and each section details a completely different area.  I can place those sections where I need them in my setting and use them, when the Players reach them.  This gives me set pieces which I can build around.  Throne of Evil is a historical romance turned into a D&D game.  While the adventure itself is nothing more than a dungeon crawl with a single wilderness encounter and an espionage paint job, it is filled with historical backstory and little bits of lore scattered through the text.  By blending the backstory in Throne of Evil with the backstory of To Find a King, I can fill in blanks in both stories and use them to better fit into my world.

Secondly, using two or more canned adventures gives me a better way to foreshadow events and expand my Players’ view of the world.  In To Find a King, the PCs have to chase down “The Evil Party” who has bought their prize out from under them.  In the module, there is no reason given for why the Evil Party (while the NPCs have names, they are listed in the NPC section as “Evil Party”) wants the keys.  With the information from Throne of Evil, I could provide a reason.  My Players already didn’t care for Lord Mortimer, a member of the Sovereign Council, because of his sudden discovery of a lost heir of Llywelyn, but when they found Robert Mortimer’s seal upon Blackleaf, a member of the Evil Party, they knew he was a villain and are waiting for the day to give him pay back.

Thirdly, doing everything I can to make the module personal to the PCs and their Players gives it depth and allows for actions not covered in the modules.  Vadis was sold into slavery after his family was betrayed in a power grab in the city of Krell’s Gate.  Malcom Evinter, Lord Krell, was the one who betrayed Vadis Mal’s parents.  While Vadis believes his parents got what they deserved, he won’t trust Lord Krell.  The elf Blackleaf becomes Adran Blackleaf, childhood rival of Adran Silverleaf, thus a member of the Party has a reason to fight from the word “Go” or a chance to parley with a known “frenemy.”

Fourthly, by using the ideas of the various encounters instead of the written encounters, I can make these events seem more organic.  The encounter with Lord Krell is very complicated and involves delaying tactics and traps, but when I ran it, I used it as a roleplaying opportunity.  I kept all the pieces; I just used them for different tasks.  It really is all about stealing and adapting.

So, my readers, do you have any suggestions for me on this topic?

Game On!

Prophecy and Players (or Adapting Modules to Fit my Game World)

Today is my one year anniversary since I began World Engineer.  I feel this is a good post for this date.  It speaks to the type of work I do for my game. So, please Read On!

While I’ve whined about being poor at running “canned adventures,” I’ve also built more than one setting around them.  My Pellham campaign is the most ambitious of the lot to date, but I’m discovering that it also the one requiring the most work in adapting it to Rhillmoran.  Because I encourage my Players to build parts the world, as they develop their PCs’ backgrounds, I am required to adjust and mold my designs.  These actions become compounded when I am adapting someone else’s material.  It has become increasing clear that I have much work to do on the “Prophecy of Llywelyn’s Return.

I left it open for Players to create PCs that were connected to the Brotherhood of Brie – the group in the module C4: To Find a King that first discovers “The Prophecy” and I kept alluding to the importance the Sovereign Council put upon “The Prophecy” in game, so I should have not been surprised when a Player placed his PC in Brie and began expounding upon the nature of “The Prophecy” and expanding upon its history.  Now, taking that into account and adding the facts that the PC is elven and could have been around during the reign of Alendus the Second and has been studying “The Prophecy” for two hundred years, leaves me with a lot of work to do, especially since I never found my original notes on my “corrections” to the “Prophecy of Brie” and I have game on Sunday, December 6, 2014.

Here is a copy of the Prophecy as it was presented in the module:

 

WITH SIX HANDS OF LORING THE

LOST UPON THE WHEEL OF TIME,

AT THE MOMENT BAZEL MOUNTS

HIS CHARIOT TO DO BATTLE WITH

THE SEVEN DAUGHTERS, THE

DEAD KING SHALL RISE TO SEIZE

THE TRIAD WITH HANDS THAT

CONNOT GRASP AND EYES THAT

CANNOT SEE.  ALL WARDS BROKEN

AND THE MYSTIC BARRIERS

PIERCED WITH MATING SWORDS,

THREE SAINTS AND SINNERS WILL

STRUGGLE IN THE DUST, BOTH

AND NEITHER TO TRIUMPH, AND

WHILE THE SUNDERED EARTH

SPEWS FORTH THE DREGS OF CEN-

TURIES, A NEW ORDER SHALL

COME UPON THE LAND.

Here are my problems:  1) I don’t have the constellations BAZEL’S CHARIOT or the SEVEN DAUGHTERS in my game universe, 2) The DEAD KING doesn’t define which king, so how does the Brotherhood of Brie know that the Dead King Returning would be Llywelyn, 3) The verses about THREE SAINTS AND SINNERS are fulfilled in C5: Llywelyn’s Bane, but in such a heavy handed manner that it is offensive, and 4) The final stanzas are clearly connected to the THREE SAINTS AND SINNERS in The Prophecy, but they are not in the narrative.  Just as a side note, I don’t like the look of the Prophecy either; I acknowledge that it was done that way to fit into the typesetting for the module, but it just doesn’t work for me.

My planned corrections: 1) I haven’t mapped out my constellations, but I do have a wandering star that appears as a red point of light every 26 years.  I will create the legend of Bazel and the constellation Bazel’s Chariot.  The Seven Daughters change from stars to the three moons of Rhillmoran.  When the Red Star aligns with the Chariot of Bazel, it is called “Bazel mounting his Chariot;” it happens every 26 years.  Every 40 years Bazel’s Chariot crosses behind the three moons, when they are full, some call this “Bazel Battles the Sister’s Three.”  2) For this section. I will alter the information to better fit the idea that the Prophecy may be about Llywelyn.  3 and 4) These section requires me to delete the offending planned events and to rewrite the stanzas entirely.

So, I’ve rewritten it to fit my game.  Here is the Rhillmoric version of the Prophecy of Llywelyn’s Return

WITH SIX HANDS OF LORING THE LOST UPON THE WHEEL OF TIME,

AT THE MOMENT BAZEL MOUNTS HIS CHARIOT TO DO BATTLE WITH THE THREE SISTERS,

A JUST MONARCH SHALL AGAIN RISE FROM BEYOND.

WHEN MYSTIC BARRIERS PIERCED WITH THEIR MATING SWORDS AND WARDS ARE BROKEN,

RETURN TO THE BIRTH OF MEN,

FOR BOTH AND NEITHER TO TRIUMPH

SAINTS AND SINNERS WILL STRUGGLE THROUGH THE DUST,

AND WHEN THE SUNDERED EARTH SPEWS FORTH THE DREGS OF CENTURIES,

A NEW ORDER SHALL COME UPON THE LAND.

So what do you all think and how have you had to recreate module themes to fit your games?

Game On!