One of the best things about my Bazarene Circuit campaign is the different cities that my PCs get to explore and that I get to create. Heppra is an ancient city transported from another continent and steeped in magic.  Duvamil is a big village with a large mill, but more importantly it is at the intersection of two moving cities and a major river.  Dwarmarik is an ancient, dwarven city with all the history and intrigue that comes with being an ancient, dwarven city.  There are others, but I haven’t worked on them as much.  My PCs got to explore the city of Chessenta last game. Chessenta is my latest creation and I have really enjoyed building it.

Ever since I first read the name Chessenta in Old Empires (a Forgotten Realms setting), the name has called to me. It just rang of images of a town filed with chess imagery. A town with life-sized chess pieces scattered throughout and village greens with living chess games being played out.  That is what I got in my Chessenta.

The map of Chessenta is set out in many ways like a game board. You can see what it looks like here. I made it out of this one, this one, and this one. I based it around this painting by Denis Beauvias. I was a lot of fun to set this map out before the players. I, also, used the painting “in game.” It was a secret door that lead into the tunnels below Chessenta.

Looking for images of fantasy chess games, I came across this wallpaper. It became a sight the PCs saw on their way down the Olt River to Chessenta. It did a great deal to set the mood for city, especially when I set the map down in front of my Players.

Long before my PCs arrived at Chessenta, NPCs kept telling the PCs two weird facts about the city. Firstly, an NPC would know of someone who went to Chessenta and never returned, but whose headless body was later discovered near the city. Secondly, the PCs were told that Chessenta was city of “gamers” and whoever won the most games became the mayor of the city. The Players went to Chessenta to investigate the murders, but couldn’t help get invovled in the “politics” the city.

Chessenta has a very odd political system; it involves candidates be successful in games of skill and chance and be talented in contests of strength and mental acuity and quatloos. Every three years, any being in Chessenta may nominate him, her, or its self as a candidate for Mayor. The Mayor of Chessenta is autocratic ruler and may make and enforce any laws desired, except those that might impede or alter the election process.

Everyone in Chessenta is required by law to go the Registry and choose a Faction (Blue, Red, or Yellow) and exchange all their gold for quatloos. Quatloos are hexagons about the size of a US quarter dollar and are made of a translucent green material that bears no resemblance to metal or wood. A quatloo doesn’t just have value equal to that of a standard gold piece; it can also count as 1/333 of a vote.

Chessenta is a city of games and gamers. The law requires each game played be taxed. Each player places an ante at the beginning of the contest and the winner claims the pot and pays 3% of the total won or 1 quatloo (whichever is higher) to the city. During an election cycle, each business is required to keep a running total of each Factions purchases. Every 333 quatloos spent counts as 1 vote for that Faction’s candidate.

An election cycle in Chessenta starts one the first day of third month every third year. It runs for three months. The first month is The Eliminations, the second month is The Primary, and the third month is The Election.

During the first month, each would be candidate must claim a Faction and win more contests than other candidates in his Faction. At the end of that month, the top contender in each Faction enters The Primary.

During The Primary every contest or game played in Chessenta must be played between opponents of different Factions. Each win is counted a vote for the winning Faction’s candidate. During this time, every quatloo spent for any service or good is added into aggregate total and that total is divided by 333 that final whole number counts as number of votes for a particular Faction’s candidate. At the end of the month the two candidates with most votes enters The Election.

Each day during the month of The Election, the final two candidates face off in a game or contest in the Arena. The businesses of Chessenta continue to track votes through sales and services of all three Factions. At the end of the month, the candidate with the most wins is the Mayor. If there is a tie, then the candidate with the most votes is elected Mayor, even if the winner is the candidate from the third Faction.

My PCs joined in a few sanctioned games and a backroom game, while they visited Chessenta. They discovered at least one of the serial killers operating in the city and explored one short way of one of the tunnels below the city. The slightly luminescent brain matter that coated the ceiling of the tunnel, along with the intellect devourers, and one of the PCs getting mesmerized by an alien intelligence convinced them to leave the city. They exchanged their quatloos for gold, resigned their Factions, and headed up Windshape Mountain toward Sanctuary.

So, what do you think? Until next time, Game On!

Household Objects (or MacGyvering Non-D&D Ideas into my Games)

So, the other day my younger daughter’s boyfriend’s car broke down.  During the diagnosis and repair process, it was discovered that the belt for the “Harmonic Balancer” had to be replaced.  Now, I have no idea what a “Harmonic Balancer” is or what it does and I don’t care to Google it to find out.  Yet, I cannot help, but to want a “Harmonic Balancer” into my games.  This is not the first time that I have been inspired to create something for Rilmorn from a non-fantasy/non-D&D object or idea.

Before I get into some of my odd inspirations, let me talk about Listerine.  This one is a cheat; it had a D&D idea in it.  In 1992, Listerine put out some great ads; including one with a bottle of Listerine wielding a sword inscribed with “Plaque Slayer” on one side of the blade and “Germ Killer” on the other side.  This, perhaps not surprisingly, led me into creating a like-named sword that was dedicated to slaying oozes and slimes.  It seemed a bit silly, at the time, but it came in quite handy when my PCs encountered Juiblex and its minions.

Men at Work, an Australian band, had a hit called “Down Under,” which was all about people from Australia, but I saw it different and created the Morloi.  The song has a chorus that changes slightly each time it sung.  I took inspiration from two of those choruses:

And she said, “Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover

And he said, “I come from a land down under Where beer does flow and men chunder Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover”

From this, I envisioned a race of humans that dwelt underground.  The men for heavy drinking raiders and the women were farmers that had visible auras about them.  I learned from Casey Kasem that “chundering” was an Australian term for “chugging beer,” thus my heavy drinking plunderers.  The idea that women were glowing farmers came from me misunderstanding one of the later choruses and believing that the line sang was “I come from a Land Down Under; where women plow and men plunder.”  How was I to know that they didn’t rhyme the words “plough” and “glow?”  I created their name by combining the two races of humanity the future presented in H. G. Wells The Time Machine, the Morlocks and the Eloi.  The last time I used the Morloi, they were traveling through time to escape a disaster that was destroying their homeland.

I don’t remember if I was using a Bulletin Board System (BBS) or was on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), but one day this GM posted asking about local businesses which had names that would make great D&D names or ideas.  He had such a name, but his Players all knew about the local business and it break the suspension of disbelief if he used it.  The name was “Lunghammer.”  I took that name a created a dragon slaying orc out of it.  “Lung” is the transliteration of the Chinese word for “dragon.”  “Lunghammer” is something that hits dragons.  He became an orc, because Lunghammer sounds like something that orc would do…”I hammer your lungs!”

So, what will the “Harmonic Balancer” be?  Is it a magical ritual that keeps intrusions from the Elemental Planes contained?  Could it be a bardic singing sword?  Does it have anything to with controlling the elementals that are being summoned within the Bazarene Circuit?  Could it be a device needed to keep the engines of Bazarene from exploding?  What would you do with such a named device?

Until we meet again, Game On!

Magic Items Should be Magical

Once again, Creighton Broadhurst has made a post that has touched on one of my complaints with some Role Playing Games.  Magic Items aren’t magical anymore.  This is one of my many complaints about 3E and 4E D&D (see paragraphs 4 and 5).  Magic items in these games become tools, like those that one may purchase at a hardware store or thrift shop.  Magic items become less magic al because there is nothing “magical” about them.

When all magical items can be codified and cataloged and any relatively aware person can look at a magic item and know its workings, then such things become no different than the often glossed over pitons and rope at the bottom of an adventurers backpack.  Magic items should have an air of mystery about them, a mystique that make even hardened adventurers and their players just a tad wary of them.

Way back in the days of 1E, I often played fast and loose with magic items.  You probably didn’t find much more than potions before you reached 4th level, but after that, watch out!  I loved weird magic; things that the Players wouldn’t expect.  Instead of dropping a ring of invisibility into a game, I’d drop a cap of invisibility or a sword of invisibility.  My players might find a ring of fireballs, instead of a wand of fireballs.  One of my favorite magic items was the lightning stone.  It was an electric blue crystal that would build up and discharge a blast of lightning ever 500 turns (a turn was time unit equal to 10 minutes in those days).  It could be discharged early, by throwing it against a hard surface, resetting the build up time.  If my Players went several days in game time without discharging the lightning stone, I would start counting down from some random number under 20.  They would panic and start shouting at the Player whose character was carrying the stone, “Throw it!  Throw it!”  Magic Swords, I loved magic swords with unreasonable powers.  Once I gave a player a sword that could cast a 100 d6 fireball that was a mile in diameter; the catch…ground zero was the sword.  Then there was Narnfriend, a dagger that could be used to cast a power word: Kill spell.  The only problem is that the caster had to make a Saving Throw or die, too.  Magic items were fun in 1E and 2E.

Magic items lost much of their fun after 2E.  In my 3E and 4E games, most magic items were nothing more than stat enhancers.  With Feats and Skills that allowed PCs to craft, modify, or completely remake magic items based on their spell selection, 3E made it very hard to make “magical” magic items.  The rules didn’t even, really, allow a GM to make items that had curses or quirks.  There were exceptions.  Raven Al’Bari, a PC in my Divlos campaign, crafted a series of Rings that had non-standard powers.  I let a Player get a Red Cap’s red cap.  So you know, a Red Cap is a type of murderous fairy; after it kills its chosen victim, the Red Cap soaks its cap in the deceased blood.  In my game, a red cap also granted a special form of invisibility called fairie invisibility, but for the cap to retain its power, it had to be regularly soaked in the blood of the wearer’s victims.  That made for a slightly morbid scene from time to time.  That cap reappeared in my 4E game with an additional power that allowed its wearer to phase thorough material objects.  It could be done, but the rules didn’t encourage it.

My 5E games are proving more “magical” than my previous games.  The characters in my Zentlan campaign have reasons to slay the fey lord Doresh, Lord of the Fading Dream, but to do so, they need a special sword.  The crippled storm giant Gormagon forged them a sword that can damage Doresh, whether he is in Dream or in Reality.  Last game, the aquagith swordsmith, Ja’Ruhl tempered the blade so that it is silvered and does psionic, as well as, slashing damage.  The characters will need to continue to seek out famous smiths and get them to enhance the weapon until it is truly a blade worthy of fighting a Lord of the Fae.  I, also, dropped a load of items of adaption on them, but what they are going to do with those rings, torcs, and bracelets, I’m not sure.  In my Bazarene Circuit game, my Players have found a slew of elemental crystals.  They are not magical in themselves, beyond their soft glowing, but they are useful ingredients in various magical spells and items.  They have also found two Masks of the Smoke Dragon; they may need to be wary of them.

A Mask of the Smoke Dragon grants its wearer darkvision and makes him or her immune to the effects of smoke and other airborne contaminants.  It’s not too powerful of an item for a 2nd level character.  It will let a PC move through a darkened room filled with poisonous gas without any inconvenience.  End of story, right?  I have a few questions for you all, Dear Readers.  1) Who made the masks?  2) Why were the masks made?  3) What is the Smoke Dragon?  4) Is the Smoke Dragon a real entity or a magical effect?  5) What were/are the aims of the Smoke Dragon and/or its creators?  6) Are there additional enchantments on the masks that the PCs do not know about?

Until next time, Game On!

Why do I Master Games?

So, a few days ago, I posted an old review in response to a Creighton Broadhurst post.  That post led my best friend to suggest that I start a blog wherein I review old gaming material.  I started working on a post for this potential project.  While I was working on that blog post, I realized something…I don’t remember why I got started GMing.

Granted, it has been over 30 years, since I sat down and started GMing, but I do not remember the steps between my first experience playing D&D that Sunday afternoon in March at Davy’s house and sitting down at my parent’s kitchen table drawing Lungold…I mean, Mythgold.  I know that I must have played D&D more than that one time.  I had an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual that my parents gave me for Christmas.  So, what led me to wanting to create my first dungeon?  What led me to craft an overland map that led the PCs to Mythgold?  What set me on this path that I will not willingly leave?  I don’t remember.

I remember long hours of playing my cleric Gregor O’Dragon nee The Gaunt, but a fair number of those hours happened after I first ran Players through parts of Mythgold.  I remember being fascinated by the descriptions of the rooms in the module B1In Search of the Unknown.  I remember stealing ideas right out of that module for Mythgold.  I just don’t remember why I wanted to DM.

Our gaming group, in the early days, consisted of Davy McMillian, Michael McMillian (Davy’s cousin), Stephen Goff (my cousin), Clyde Smith(Davy’s friend), and Mark Inabinette (my cousin).  Davy started out as DM, because he had the books.  Shortly, thereafter, Davy and Clyde began taking turns at DMing.  I don’t remember what happened at most or any of those games, but it was during those early days that I must have begun to desire to sit on the other side of the DM’s Screen.

What if my memory is faulty?  What if I am wrong about which AD&D book my parents bought me for Christmas?  What if I started drawing Mythgold before I had any D&D books of my own?  It doesn’t really matter, because the truth of the thing is that I wanted to create.  I wanted to make a dungeon.  I wanted PCs and their Players to interact with the monsters that I had placed within it.  I just don’t know why?

Even if I do not remember why I started GMing, I know why I do it today.  I do it today, because I am a poor player.  I have a hard time sitting on the far side of the Game Master Screen and not think about how I would run the game different.  I enjoy creating.  I get a great joy spending time designing maps.  Working up NPC personalities gives me great satisfaction.  Writing secret cards helps me to think outside of the box and fuels further creativity.  Running games makes all the creative work I do worth the effort and time that goes into creating.  Being caught off guard by my Players and having to maintain composure, think on my feet, and give the illusion that I had everything already planned out gives me a thrill that outweighs the glory of creating.  Watching a story unfold, a story that I could not have crafted on my own, is like watching a flower bud open.  It is a thing of beauty.  Seeing Players getting caught up in the moment gives me energy to go deeper and draw forth more better encounters and adventures.  It helps me make my world a more real place, at least for a short while, than the rest of reality in which we dwell.

So, why do you Master Games, my Good Readers?  What draws you into the bright darkness that requires us to fill crannies full of goblins and sow the seeds of dragons?  Until next time, Game On!


Maps, Maps, and More Maps (or Art or Artifact?)

So, I wrote a Live Journal post with nearly the same title in January of 2014 and bragged about my map of the continent of Moytonia.  I’ve made or was given multiple maps over the years.  I really enjoy maps.  As I mentioned a while ago, I wanted to build up my map collection (Item #2).  This campaign is giving me just that.  I’ve got 6 major cities and towns on the Bazarene Circuit to map out.  There is a monastery and a halfling village to work on.  If the PCs want to explore beyond the Bazarene Circuit, I have maps for Constantina, Barovia, and Neverwinter.  I am working on a map for Majipor.  This is a good time for maps and me.

I like maps that Players can make their own.  I like maps that have Player notes on them.  It gives the Players a sense of ownership of the campaign.  My first map was the map to Mythgold; you can see the marks the players made on it as they figured out how long it would take them to travel from the edge of civilization to Mythgold and where they should and should not camp.  My pre-GIMP versions of Moytonia had many marks put upon them by my Players.  Kingdoms were drawn in.  Islands named.  It made Rillmorn more than I could have done on my own.

I will use the map of Neverwinter that came with the campaign setting, but I will not be able to let my Players mark it up, because it more art than artifact.  I cannot reproduce the Neverwinter map and if my Players spill something on try to mark which house is the mage spy’s house and which house is the cleric spy’s house that map will be ruined.

In my newest campaign, I had originally planned on making a single copy of each map and show it to my Players, as needed.  I fully expected them to mark it and turn it into something that I could use in later games.  My wife convinced me to make multiple copies of the maps of Duvamil and of the larger area in which the game is set for each of my Players.  This lets each one of them mark his or her the way he or she wants.

So, here are the maps so far…

Northwest Moytonia – This map is a combination of a section of my big Moytonia map and a map I created for my Sanderzani Campaign.  I will be focusing on the towns and cities on the Bazarene Circuit, but I hope to make or steal maps for all the areas marked there.

Duvamil – Since I first ran the Sanderzani campaign in 2004 and 2005, I have had the town of Duvamil marked on multiple maps.  I have sent PCs to Duvamil multiple times, but I never had a map for it…until now.  Using GIMP, I took pieces from the maps of Red Larch from Princes of the Apocolypse, Brindol, Greenest from random image sites, and the Village of Orlane from N1 Against the Cult of Reptile God.  It has a patchwork quality to it and I am good with that.  Yes, there is a lot of blank space on the map.  The map only shows the largest of structures in Duvamil and none of those marked items have names.  I am bad at naming things and won’t give places names or, sometimes, even purposes until the PCs go looking for a specific person or place.

Heppra – This is my latest creation is.  It is two maps of Hamunaptra from Green Ronin’s Mythic Vistas series mixed with other elements using GIMP.  This one is being numbered, so I can give Christina a copy of the key, since Heppra is the home town of her Character, Shery-kem.  It is a work in progress.

Maps do not have to be perfect.  They have to be usable.  They have to be touchstones to the Reality in the Game.  These maps of mine are examples of that.  What do your maps look like?  Are the pristine or damaged?  Are they more art or more artifacts?

Until next time, Game On!


Today in the Northern Hemisphere, we acknowledge the Vernal or Spring Equinox.  On the continent of Moytonia on the world Rilmorn, where the celestial movements are much more clockwork in their precision, they are celebrating the first day of Aires, AKA New Year’s Day, AKA the Vernal Equinox, AKA Beltane.

While I have admitted (5th paragraph) that I was wrong when I placed the four Great Druidic Celebrations on the equinoxes and solstices, I do not have any desire to change this part of the established history of Rilmorn.  These Celebrations have held sway in active game play since 1984.  Also, I intend to start my next campaign (the Duvamil Campaign) on 1 Aries 2016.  Had all went as planned, we would have started this campaign today; thus linking calendars in the Game World and in the Table World.

I had planned on the PCs encountering various Beltane traditions.  As the suns set, they local druids would reenact the fight between the Holly King and the Oak King and all would celebrate the Oak King’s Victory.  There would have been the driving of the cattle between the Bel Fires to bless then and protect them from the attentions of the Goodly Folk.  Maybe the PCs would have participated in Fire Leaping.  The children of Duvamil would have tried to rope them into games of Eggs and Hares.  If any of the PCs were unmarried, but of marrying age, they would have been cajoled into joining a Ring Dance around the Oak King’s Tree.

Of course all those ideas and plans will still happen, but I won’t have the personal joy of starting a Campaign on the Vernal Equinox while playing the inaugural game on the Vernal Equinox.  So, dear readers, do you have any special events set up for holidays in your game worlds?

Game On!


So, in 1981, I got ahold of a copy the Fiend Folio, the first collection of monsters published by TSR, after they released the Monster Manual.  In it I found three of my favorite monsters: the githyanki (p.p. 43-45), the grell (p.p. 46-48), and the slaad (p.p. 80-83).  Since those early days, all three have made multiple appearances on Rilmorn and in various other settings, but slaadi have held special place in the cockles of my cold, little GMing heart.  Over time, the slaadi have changed.  Each edition offered new insights and variants.  I have steadily taken each of these changes and attempted to blend what I wanted into MY version of slaadi.  Now, it is my pleasure to present to you Way-Too-Much-Information about a bunch of bipedal frog-monsters.


The slaadi are great frog-like beings which dwell in both the Bleeding Edge of Reality and the Elemental Chaos.  Their natural form is that of a large, bipedal frog, though some slaadi have shapechanging abilities and can take on a humanoid appearance.  In their natural from, slaadi heads are huge and slaadi claws are sharp.

While slaadi are undisciplined and have no formal hierarchy, those knowledgeable about their habits and nature classify each slaad by its rarity and its type (which is often based on their color).  Despite such classifications by observers, most slaadi only obey stronger slaadi and then only under the threat of annihilation.

Many slaadi possess a magical symbol in the form of a unique gem that is embedded in the slaad’s skull just below the skin of its forehead.  These jewels are symbols of the rank (or rather the power) of the slaad and encase the slaad’s life force.  If a slaad’s gem is not destroyed, when a slaad is killed, the slaad automatically reincarnates around the gem the next day.  Certain magics can be used to remove a slaad gem from a still living slaad.  A successfully extracted gem can be used to control the slaad from which it was removed.  Such control is not always complete and anyone using a slaad gem should make quick use of their servant and then send it and its gem on their way.

Slaadi speak their own language; known among the learned as slaadeen.  Many slaadi are also telepathic and can communicate with any being that possesses a language.

Slaadi Reproduction and Transformation

Most slaadi reproduce by implanting a living host with an egg pellet from an egg sac underneath a slaad’s claws.  Normally, red slaadi egg pellets produce blue or green slaadi tadpoles, while egg pellets from other slaadi produce red or green slaadi tadpoles.  Some slaadi possess an infectious bite.  This bite transmits a disease called the chaos phage; a victim who succumbs to the chaos phage transforms into a slaad of the same the type that bit the victim or a green slaad.

There are three primary exceptions to this act of reproduction: flux slaadi, slaad brooders, and slaad spawners.  Flux slaadi are slaadi mutants; some spawnings go awry and small, weak, pebbly-skinned flux slaadi are born instead of the expected slaadi type.  Flux slaadi cannot reproduce.  Some slaadi take a special path that ultimately allows them to control the type of slaadi that their egg pellets spawn; these slaadi become slaad brooders.  Powerful slaad brooders can design the traits they want in their spawn and can create unique slaadi types.  Finally, slaad spawners are a slaadi mutation that causes embryonic slaadi spawn within their own bodies.  Blood and pus filled boils develop on a slaad spawner’s body and only physical injury can release the young slaadi.  If a newly released slaad spawn successfully feeds within the first moments of life, it will most likely survive to transform into a random slaad type a few days later.

Over time individual slaadi can go through amazing transformations.  Green slaadi that have survived at least a century sometimes retreat into isolation to undergo a ritual that transforms them into grey slaadi.  Green slaadi that have survived for at least two centuries may retreat into isolation to attempt a mysterious ritual that, if they survive, will transform them into death slaadi.  Grey slaadi that survive a thousand years can become white slaadi and death slaadi that survive two thousand years can transform into black slaadi.  Sometimes the chaotic energies within individual slaadi cause spontaneous transformations.  Blue slaadi digesters, green slaadi madjacks, grey slaadi havocs, and red slaadi juggernauts are some of the forms such transformations can take.

The Spawning Stone

Deep within the chaos of the Bleeding Edge of Reality, or maybe it is in the heart of the Elemental Chaos, is a massive stone over a mile wide and nearly a mile tall.  This stone covered in strange glyphs and other writing is the mating ground for all known slaadi types.  The Spawning Stone produces currents of ever changing “chaos-stuff” that flow away from the Stone.  As the nature of the “chaos-stuff” changes, one slaad race is drawn upstream to the stone, while all other slaadi are repelled.  Even with this feature in place, the first arrivals of the new set of mating slaadi are forced to drive off the lingerers from previous wave of mating slaadi.

The origin of the Spawning Stone is unknown, but legend holds that the two greatest slaadi lords, S’sendam and Ygorl, ensorcelled the stone to bind the slaadi into their current frog-like forms and color types.  They did this to prevent a slaad mutant from being born that would be more powerful than they.  It is believed that the slaadi gems, found in the forehead of many slaadi, come from egg pellets fertilized by slaadi mating at the Spawning Stone.

Well, folks this is part of what I’ve crafted for my games.  Tell me, if you’ve gone this crazy in your campaign design and if so, what did you do.  Until next time, Game On!

Namoria and Terah (or How I Failed at Modules Between Editions)

When I was working on a post about Retrocontinuity , I discovered that I could not find a post to which I wanted to link.  It turns out that I never finished or posted that particular post. Here it is.

In late 1999 AD, my Players and I finished up my latest campaign – the one where one PC was a werewolf, who didn’t know he was a werewolf and another PC was a midwife working to keep her vampiric step-father’s condition a secret and my Oriental Adventures campaign had never really gelled and taken off.  We were all psyched up for 3E, but we didn’t want to wait until August 2000 AD to play again.  I didn’t want to start a new campaign in Rilmorn that I would have to convert for the new edition, so I decided to take up an idea from Mike Magee.

Back in the 80’s, Mike suggested that, since I owed so many modules, I should run a game using only modules.  The idea was for me to run the modules as written; I wouldn’t create my own plot lines.  As we played through each module, I’d place any maps in the module contiguous to already existing maps, ignoring any anomalous terrain issues.  Thus, I’d create a mosaic world made up of Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and Krynn.  It was a cool idea, but since I had been running a continuing Game World in Rilmorn, I never took the time to try it.  The downtime between editions seemed like the perfect time to try it out.

I had B2 – Keep on the Borderlands and Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, so I decided to use that as the foundation for this campaign. I had two solid versions of a great sandbox-style game module, a copy of B1 – In Search of the Unknown (a site which was marked on the maps of both Keep on the Borderlands modules), and a group of self-directed players.  Once I dropped a few plot hooks in, this campaign should have rolled itself right out.  I flopped right out of the starting gate.

I just could not run a campaign ex nihilo.  I felt compelled to create an empire, so I could have borderlands into which I place the Keep.  So, I came up with the Namorian Empire.  Namoria was based on Rome with a strong Celtic influence.  I wrote up a historical timeline.  I designed a calendar with 12 months, each one named after one of the first twelve emperors.  I also went on to adjust some of the history written into the module about Kendal Keep (the name given to the Keep in Return to the Keep on the Borderlands). No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it.

I use other modules and adventures, but rather than run them mosaic style, I tried to blend them into the campaign seamlessly.  It became a rather fun campaign, but personality issues and a storyline that got out of hand led to the demise of the Namori Campaign.

Skip to several campaigns later, we are well versed in using 3E and I am running my Sanderzani Campaign.  I am trying to add a bit of Lovecraftian horror to my store and quietly insert Yog-Sothoth into the background.  I, then, begin to attempt to draw the PCs across time and space.  I take modules, The Sunless Citadel by Bruce Coredell and The Standing Stone by John D. Rateliff (author of Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, by the way) and blended them and their maps to create an adventure for my gypsy band.  I tied it to the characters and adventurers of the previous campaign.  It went over well, but I never really got to reveal all the secrets I wove into that adventure setting.

But, my tale of woe doesn’t end there.  I got the D&D Next Play Test materials and attempted to run them for various Players.  I decided to put those materials into this world.  I ended up creating a weird map that was supposed to be changed as more play test materials came out. Unless the objects and places appearing on the map were labeled and oriented correctly, they didn’t actually exist.  Everything else on the on the map was in flux and subject to change.  I tied some of the adventures to the Isle of the Dreamers from my original Namori Campaign and would later use some of this material as background for my short-lived gnome campaign.  Now, I’m using this material and setting to expand on the Isle of the Dreamers.  It never ends.

Game On!

P is for Procrastination

When I accepted the A to Z Challenge, I had high hopes.  I got four completed and had planned on writing “E is for Elethar,” “F is for Fun,” G is for Gregory,” “M is for Maps,” “S is for Shanor,” “X is for Xashthrapot” and “Z is for Zentlan.”  Alas, I was not successful and I know why, I procrastinated.

Every Game Master can, most likely, tell you of times when he or she, for no good reason, put off working on Game until it was nearly too late to run the game.  It is true that GMs procrastinate; “Never do today what you can put off till next week,” so quoted my mother.  The given fact that I procrastinate is not important.  What is important is the reasons why I procrastinate and how I deal with the causes of procrastination.

Procrastination is not simply not doing something that needs to be done; it is choosing to do something else, when one has time to do the needed thing.  It is sitting down a playing Sid Mier’s Civilization, instead of working on the A to Z Challenge.  So, why do I put off working on my game?  Some days, I am just worn out.  Work has taken its toll.  There is high drama being played out on the stage that is my home.  I’m sick.  On those days, I just want to do something that occupies my mind, but doesn’t require me to think.  I don’t really have anything I can do to deal with these situations, because they are external to my game.  Other times, I procrastinate, because I am unhappy with my game.  When this happens, I have a problem upon which I need to work.

When I am procrastinating because I am unhappy with my game, I usually find one of two causes.  Either I have devised a setting which doesn’t interest me or my players are making me miserable.  The latter problem is often caused by players who are uninterested in the setting which I am running or by players who get more enjoyment out of ruining the game for the GM or the other Players.  When this has happened in my games, the players in question were also my friends outside the Game, so I decided to focus on doing what I could to engage those players and focus on the things that make the Game fun for me.  It usually works and we all have a fairly good time.  Always focus on the positive and always remember the other Players.

When I procrastinate due to my lack of interest in my setting, I must figure out what I don’t like about my own campaign.  Sometimes discovering what I don’t like about my campaign is quite simple.  Other times, I spend hours or days trying to figure out what is wrong.  Either way, once I discover it, I begin to change the setting.  I don’t do it suddenly without warning, because that isn’t fair to my players, who have worked hard to make characters that fit the setting.  I start small and give the Players time to adjust their characters to fit the changes.  The few times that I made sudden and hardcore changes in my games, I had players rebel.  So, now, if I am unhappy running a gritty desert campaign and want to run a high fantasy Celtic campaign, I can start with dropping magic items from the style of campaign I want into my desert setting.  Then I start sending the PCs on short excursions into the net setting.  After a few trips into the Celtic setting, I craft longer adventures and attempt to give the PCs touchstones and hooks, so that my Players want to explore this world.  If I do it right, I’m running y preferred game of choice and my Players are caught up in the depth of my world and the story that we are creating  together.

Do you procrastinate?  Why?  What do you do return to active game work?  Until next time, Game On!

C is for Coin

Adventures rush to loot the dragon’s bed, after the dragon is dead.  Heroes, they may be, but they all run toward the demon cult’s treasury.  Before they save the princess from her fate, they must, the fee, negotiate.  Why, because money is the grease that lubricates the gears of a civilization and it is part of the Players’ reward for their PCs succeeding. (2015.04.16) (2015.05.28)

In many ways, gold (also called gold pieces, g.p., GP, or gp) is simply a score card for D&D.  The more money the PCs have, the more “magic stuff” (magic armor, enchanted weapons, raise dead spells) they can afford.  David Noonan, in a D&D Insider podcast, once said that there was no real economy in a Dungeons and Dragons Game.  The silver pieces given to the NPC baker for a loaf of journey bread are not then given to the NPC miller, so that the NPC baker can get more flour.  This is true in any Player/GM encounter.  Coin only appears in a game when the PCs have it.  (I do not count treasure listed in monster/NPC write-ups to be “in play,” since their only purpose to tell the GM what to give the PCs, if they “win.”)  It is a counter and nothing more, but it doesn’t have to be... (2015.04.16) (2015.05.28)

Each version of D&D has had a monetary system that consisted of coins of various metals and denominations.  Each version of D&D has used the gold piece (gp) as the standard unit of measure for wealth, but the rates of exchange between coins have changed.  In 1E, there was the copper piece (c.p.) which was valued at 1/10 of a silver piece (s.p.) which was equal to 1/10 of an electrum piece (e.p.), which had a value of ½ of a gold piece (g.p.), which carried a value of 1/5 of a platinum piece (p.p.).  Thus (to lift the example from page 35 of the first edition of the Players Handbook):  “200 c.p. = 20 s.p. = 2 e.p. = 1 g.p. = 1/5 p.p.”  In 2E, the ratios between the coins remained the same, but the abbreviations for the coins changed to CP, SP, EP, GP, and PP.  Money in 3E was simplified.  10 cp was equal to 1 sp, 10 sp equaled 1 gp, and 10 gp was worth 1 pp.  4E numismatistics gave use a new currency: astral diamonds (ad) and changed the conversion ratio between gold and platinum.  1 pp was, then, equal to 100 gp, while an ad was equal to 10,000 gp.  4E, clearly, saw the PCs running around with LOTS spending cash.  5E has also had its hand in fiddling with the value of a gold piece.  Now, 100 cp = 10 sp = ½ ep = 1 gp = 1/10 pp.  Sweet mercy, this is a boring paragraph.

Despite the obvious snooze factor in the previous paragraphs, coinage does not have to be simply a scorecard or boring.  Coins do not appear ex nihilo, they are products of the civilizations and cultures that produce and use them.  They are artifacts that can be used to tell stories of a lost people or give PCs clues to possible dangers in the area where the coins were found.  Differing monetary systems between neighboring nations could offer Players roleplaying opportunities.  I have tried and will try again to put such devices to use in my games.

During my 1E days, Lewis Pulsipher, in Dragon #74, suggested changing from the sometimes arcane D&D gold standard to a decimal-based silver standard that dropped electrum coins and changed the size and weight of coins, so the number of coins went from 10 to pound to about 216+ to a pound.  I changed to a silver standard and decided that there were 100 coins to pound.  Mike Magee (Gareth Eybender’s Player and designer of Elethar) took this idea and created a currency system for the elven kingdom of Elethar.

Base currency: Pyramid (silver piece)

Coinage:  1 argentel Gareth = 10 platinum Castles = 100 gold Crowns = 1000 silver Pyramids = 10000 copper Tenthmids = 100000 steel Centimids (often referred to as “cents”)


Eletharian currency is noted throughout Rilmorn for its purity. Counterfeiting is a capital crime in the Kingdom, and Elethar’s Intelligence Service works diligently at home and abroad pursuing those who would forge or debase the kingdom’s currency

Robert Hegwood provided some images of coins used by the Empire of Xshathrapat.  I’m going use some of those images (slightly altered) in my Pellham campaign.  I don’t know if I will attempt a return to the silver standard, since my present players seem fairly attached the standard system, but I am going to start making coins from different countries unique and attempt to use those differences to improve the feel for each region and give more depth to my setting. (2015.04.16)

I am not the only one who works on making their world’s coinage more than a counter on a scorecard.  D. at Fluer de mal has a post about currency on his world here and here and here.

Do any of you, my good readers, make use of coins to spice up your games?

Game On!