B is for Bull

2015.04.05

In the history of Rilmorn, two Players, John Hesselberg and Robert Hegwood, have made use of bull imagery when designing countries within the game world.  John did it within the game as the PC Alkin du Fey Duncan; while Robert created Xshathapat externally as a designer.  While they each came to the art of creation from different directions, John and Robert both gave me ideas, events, and images that I intend to use in my Pellham campaign.

The first use of the bull imagery in Rilmorn came when John’s half-elven ranger, Alkin du Fey, attempted to free an area from an oppressive bandit overlord.  After a bit of deft diplonacy, Alkin and his friend and fellow adventurer Gareth Eybender convinced the overlord to a contest.  The contest would be a fight between two bulls.  The winner of the contest would take leadership of the populace and the loser would depart.  The local populace would attend the contest and assure that both parties abided by the outcome.  There was supposed to be no magic involved, but of course the bandit overlord had his bull’s horns enchanted to be sharper and deadlier than normal bull’s horns.  Alkin, on the hand took a nursing male calf and had a blacksmith craft a harness with large spikes at the shoulders.  The day before the contest Alkin and Gareth kept the calf from its mother; so when the calf was released into the arena with the bandit overlord’s enchanted bull, it rushed toward the first cow it saw and attempted nurse.  Even though the populace acclaimed Alkin their ruler, Gareth and Alkin were still forced to fight and slay the bandit overlord.  After that was done, Alkin declared the red bull as the symbol of the Alki; a symbol that would remain when years later the ruler of Alkis would marry an heir to the Duchy of Dyskor and form the Kingdom of Alko-Dyskoria.  The

The next time I encountered bull imagery in Rilmorn was when Robert Hegwood handed me a red folder; handwritten on the cover were these words: “A NOT BRIEF ENOUGH OVERVIEW OF XSHATHRAPAT, THE ISLAND Empire of The WEST.”  Robert had designed an entire culture based around some background history and mythology that I had created for Rilmorn and Persian Zoroastrianism with a touch of medieval Christian missionary zeal.  Among those pages I found coin emblazoned with a bull’s head and the note, “The bull is the symbol of “Godly Rule and Might.”  Later I found the flag for the Xshathrapatian Navy, which bore a winged Bull.

Robert also created a timeline for the combined efforts of Alko-Dyskoria and Xshathrapat to colonize an unnamed continent to the West.  I never really dealt with any of that information until I started working on Iolta and Thrain.  Using Robert’s work, I filled in a lot of geography and history about Iolta and created the legends of the Tribes of the Winged Bull and the Red Bull.  Also, there are “Bulls,” gold coins bearing the image of a bull, hidden among lost treasure hoards.

The point of all of this is that letting your players create can help a GM to build other things.  I don’t recall planning on letting Alkin become a ruler, but I am glad he did.  Having Alkis as Alkin’s home base gave me plenty of hooks for games.  Alkin and Gareth had to defeat evils threatened the populace.  Some games required Alkin to be a diplomat; while others made him an archaeologist in his own kingdom.  Robert’s work offered broad stroke history from which I could mine.  Xshatrapat became a story to be told around tavern hearths.  Legends of its rise and collapse added to relics and artifacts found in dragons’ hoards and ancestral tombs.  Later all of this would be used as underpinning for Iolta and Thrain.

Game On!

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A is for Aries

As I have mentioned before, I think that I originally named the months of the Rimoric Calendar after the twelve signs of Western Astrology, so that the month names were both familiar and exotic.  Whether that is true or not is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the idea that 1 Aries 1 Age of Silver is first date of recorded history for Rilmorin.  It represents the beginning of timekeeping in my games.

Timekeeping in a role playing game can be a thankless job.  How many days does it take to travel to the next dungeon?  How long will it take for the mage to make a magic item?  How many weeks are the PCs sidelined, because they are trapped in snowed-in village?  Does it really matter when the dragon laid it eggs?  Since RPGing is a game of imagination, why even worry about keeping track of the days, weeks, and years.  Gary Gygax, in the 1E DMG (PP 37-8), explains the importance of keeping time in a campaign and offers up a system for doing so.  I do not necessarily agree with all of Mr. Gygax’s ideas on how to keep time flowing in a campaign, but I do agree with him that if you are running a campaign, then you need to have a system in place to keep track of time.

Wandering through the corridors of my memory, I have come to this conclusion: I may have begun playing D&D and running games in 1979, but I did not start running a campaign until I was running a regular game at the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church parsonage with Andy Cotten, Brad Corner, Rick Harris, Russell Badders, and Thom Thetford.  I had other gaming groups and they had serial and connected adventures, but it was not until Thom wrote down a timeline of one of our game sessions and used the actual dates on the Gregorian calendar that I named the months and started keeping timelines, chronologies, and histories for my games.  Oh, how things have grown since then.

1 Aries, the Vernal Equinox, is the beginning of each year according to the learned on the continent of Moytonia.  It is the time when the old is put away and the new is presented for all the world to see.  It is also the time of renewal and growth.  If one is not putting away the old, then one must take the old and reinvigorate it; the month of Aries represents that process.  I feel this idea is symbolic of what is happening in and on Rilmoryn.  I have two newborn campaigns in play right now, Pellham and Zentlan.  Neither of them will use the Calendar System of Moytonia, so old things must be put away.  Yet, both of them will see the same skies and stars and will be subject to the same celestial forces, so the old must be renewed.

By Western Astrological count, in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, today is the 12th day of Aries.  The Vernal Equinox has come and gone and the next full moon is Saturday, April 4, 2015, thus the festival of Easter is only 3 days away, all times and ideas of rebirth and renewal.  Things are changing in the world in which I live.  My granddaughters are growing.  I am seeking more money and better hours for my employment.  I’ve got lots of work to do in my games and I need to work on my fiction and my reviews.  So, I ask my readers and myself in what ways will you and I renew the worlds and games in which we live and play?

Game On!

Zentlan Part Two (or What Dreams May Come)

I have long “dreamt” of running a campaign that uses dreams as its core.  I ran a short playtest game with James and Christina wherein I attempted to set up dream campaign, but circumstances prevented us from continuing it.  A may have been setting up a “dream campaign” with Thom and Christina, when I was devising the Skype Campaign, but I was more focused on elementals and lost memories when I was working on that one.  Now, I try again.  Here are some the persons, places, and things that the PCs may encounter.

Doresh, Lord of the Fading Dream (Ebberon Campaign Guide PP 143-4), is my main villain all three of my PCs have a reason to end him.  Christina’s druid Malowyn Marshroot wants to stop him from expanding Shae Lorlyndra by dissolving the barriers between Reality (the Mundane World, the Shadowfell, and the Fey Realm) and Dreaming (any number of Dream realms that exist across the multiverse).  Clint’s warlock Kathar is under the commands of his balor patron Errtu to keep a library of books out of Doresh’s hands.  Spencer’s ranger Desmoxan escaped from Shae Lorlyndra and Doresh after being held as a slave for “a hundred years,” so he plans on revenge.  All three have a reason to fight Doresh, but they’ve got a long way to go before they can bring the fight to him.

The Isle of Celestia is the dream realm of the Isle of Argothus (The Campaign Book Volume One Fantasy PP 11-6).  Argothi and Celestia first appeared in my Namori campaign.  The Isle of Celestia was “colonized” by five High Wizards from another reality who sought to save their race from a hungry elder god.  The High Wizards did so by weaving their surviving peoples’ souls into magical garments and fled to a distant reality.  After they crafted themselves a sanctuary, the five High Wizards entered into an enchanted sleep, became the “Dreamers,” and “built” the dream realm of Celstia.  The Dreamers planned on giving their people an eternity of happiness within their dream realm.  I didn’t happen and the PCs came to defeat Nevil-Kethis, the elder god, and save their own world in the process.  In the course of the story, two the Dreamers were killed, but not all the souls in their magic robes were slain by Nevil-Kethis.  A PC, Veska – a human wizard reincarnated as a dryad, became a “Dreamer” these tainted souls as her people.  Veska, the Staff of the Five Elements, the Keep on the Borderlands, and other dream related artifacts and relics from Celestia have seen appeared in my Rhylmori campaign, my Sanderzani campaign, my Spellguard campaign, and my playtest one-offs.  It will be fun to see what happens if the Zentlan PCs travel Celestia and encounter Veska and the others who have affected the Dreamers’ Isle.  (Just a side note: Veska may be making an appearance in my Pellham campaign.)

The PCs in my Rhilmori got to encounter multiple dream realms and artifacts: the Isle of Celestia, Tholl’s Realm (Citybook IV: On the Road PP 53-8), and Silkies (The Dragon: Vol. V, No. 3, “Dragon’s Bestiary” PP 57-8) from the City of Glass (The Vortex of Madness and other planar perils PP 65-96) using Dream Magic (Dragon Magazine: Vol. XX, no. 4 “In Dreams” PP 10-7).  I could easily lift any of those from games past and update them for Zentlan.

The Divlos campaign used the dream realm of Sommonus, which I adapted from a friend’s copy of Chaosium’s H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands to fit my desert-style campaign.  I don’t see this one as having much use in the Zentlan setting, but I may find a use for it.

Io-Vol the Dreamwrath Dragon appeared in my Spellguard campaign.  She is a dragon that can only appear when a “dragon of her blood” sleeps.  Io-Vol is a great potential villain in the Zentlan campaign.

A Nightmare Collector (Denizens of Avadnu PP 117-8) is a construct designed to catch nightmares from a local area providing the inhabitants with a peaceful sleep.  The magic used in the construction of the nightmre collector and the collected nightmares give the nightmare collector the semblance of life and can make it a threat.  I’ve thought up, but never used, a couple of ideas using nightmare collectors.  They could easily be pulled into Zentlan.

White Wolf’s Scarred Lands setting included dream monsters and a demigod of dreams.  I may steal and adapt these for this campaign.

It appears that I have plenty of Dreams from my collection of resources.  Now, I just need to decide which ones to use first.  Do you any of you, my dear readers, have any dream monsters or settings that just call to you?  What fears would you have about running a “dream” campaign?

Game on!

Zentlan (or Gregory Builds Another Campaign Setting)

It has occurred to me that I write about devising campaign settings more than any other topic.  There are two probable reasons for campaign creation to be my favored writing material: 1) It is easier to write about than other parts of the game or 2) It is a part of D&D I enjoy more than other parts.  I don’t know the answer, but I do recognize that in other games (video, tabletop rpgs, etc.), I am the builder personality.  I like to create things that will last and, as a side note, Players in my games have noted that I often focus game play on Players that are working in builder mode when in Rylmoran.  Thus, once again into the Breach of Creation, I go.

One of the great things about GMing for 30+ years is that I have lots of material for building settings.  I have collected thousands of pages of published adventures, modules, campaign settings, and game systems.  I have tens of thousands of hours of actually game play and in-game creation from which to draw.  I am using both of these resources in crating Zentlan.  Different continents on Rylmoran have different environmental effects and sometimes even different “magic levels” or arcane phenomena or prohibitions and beacuse of that I can make use of my resources and create very different spaces all on the same world.  So, with this in mind, I now turn to Zentlan.

In the late 1980s, a group of PCs ended up in an unnamed city on an unnamed island had to deal with the Zentlar, the local population whose law enforcement used men with crystal wands that summoned acid rain and women who used crystal to track criminal offenders.  I have no recollection or record of what the PCs were doing there or how they escaped, but I do know that that city and those people stayed in my mind and when Thom, Christina, and I decided to try a long distance Skype game, the Zentlar finally found a place to settle: Zentlan.  The unnamed city became Dhavanarra AKA Zen Port and was placed on a small island just north of Zentland.  Other Zentlar cities would be found on the mainland.

So, Thom drew out the continental outline and I began to fill it in.  I had recently picked up the book Primal Power and in it was a section on “savage” regions of the world that could be homelands for primal characters (4E druids, shamans, wardens, etc.).  I decided to place all of those areas in Zentlan.  Zentlan was to be a “hotbed” elemental activity and origin site of the genasi, elemental humanoids.

We had a neat environment, but we needed it be populated.  I had already placed the Zentlar on Zentland and I know villages and tribes of genasi lived in the elemental biomes, but I wanted more.  Thus, I added the A’Thara.  The A’Thara are an ethnic group of people of human and diavlin ancestry (See the Seven Races of Marn).  The A’Thara fled Divlos during the Wars of the Sorcerer Monarchs and built a thriving empire on Zentlan.  An empire that fell after repeated conflicts with the Zentlar; only loosely allied cities remain.

Now, it came time to place cities on the map.  I had decided that the Zentlar are psionic based society that shapes the environment to fit their circular cites and that sounded like the Reidrans and Kalashtar from Ebberon to me, thus I began pilfering names from that section of the Ebberon Campaign Guide.  The A’Thara cities would be less uniform names and I had a great resource to use for the campaign base, Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel.  I picked up Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel at Free RPG day in 2008 and had never had a chance to use it.  With that final addition the basic population centers were in place, though there are still unnamed cities marked on the map.

I had old cites, fallen empires, elemental biomes, and psionic societies, what else did I need or want.  I needed a villain.  I wanted something weird.  I filled both desires with two Feyspires right out of Ebberon: Taer Syraen: the Winter Citadel and Taer Lian Doresh: the Fortress of Fading Dreams.  Taer Syraen got dropped whole cloth from the Ebberon Campaign Guide to the center of the Frostfell, while Taer Lian Doresh got renamed Shae Lorlyndra and placed in the Wrathwood.  I finished off my need for the weird by adding an even older fallen empire: the Olman from Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan to the mix and dropping one of the most intriguing features (at least to me) of the old Greyhawk Gazetteer, Nyr Dyv – Lake of Unknown Depths onto the Zentlan canvas.

All of this was done for the aborted Skype campaign, but I grabbed it all and decided to use it for Christina, Clint, and Spencer.  They provided me with a half-elf druid, a dragonborn warlock, and a tiefling ranger.  We developed some background for each of them and I dropped them in media res into the conflict with Lord Doresh.  Thus is overly long explanation of how I crafted my campaign setting of Zentlan.

Until we meet again, Game On!

From Tree to Letter to Month (or How Does Gregory Make a Place Unique?

Some years back, Todd Jordan and I were discussing our game worlds and, in noting that each city or region of Rillmorn was unique, Todd said to me, “Your world is like Indiana Jones leafing through a tome of onionskin pages, while mine is like that guy who finds the singing frog.”  To this day, I am uncertain if Todd was trying to say that my games were more serious than his or that because I put more effort into attempting to make each area of Rilmorn distinct that it made my games feel more real.  Whatever he meant, I took it as a compliment and have continued to work hard and give each campaign site a special twist.  Something for my Players to hang on to and work with to give them a sense that this place is different from where the last campaign happened.

Iolta is much like my original continent Moytonia.  Moytonia was originally boiled out of Witch World, Middle Earth, and B1-In Search of the Unknown.  It was later spiced with the works of Katherine Kurtz, various issues of Dragon magazine, other modules and settings books, and finally a good dose of Player and PC creations.  Iolta uses many similar sources.  So, in an attempt to make Pellahm distinct from Kardon, Spellguard, and the Storm Kingdom, I am going to design a new calendar.

When I originally named the Months of the Year for Rilmorn, I decided to go with something different than January, February, etcetera or “Hot Month, “Growing Month,” and so on.  I chose the names for the twelve signs of the Western Astrologic Zodiac.  I did it as much to be different, as I did for it to be familiar.  I did not want my players to struggle with month names in addition to the other Rillmorn specific features: two suns, three moons, and such.  In addition to designing the months to keep track of the passage of time, I created four seasonal festivals for that would be nigh universal across Moytonia.

I have long had an interest in Celtic myth and history.  I remember writing a paper in my History of the English Language class at USM on druids and got to use the 1E Players Handbook as a reference.  Despite my interest and study, I did not know as much as I thought I did.  So when I picked Beltane, Lamas, Samhain, and Yule to the festivals and placed them on the vernal equinox, midsummer, autumnal equinox, and midwinter, I did not know that these were not events celebrated on the equinoxes and solstices nor did I realize that I had didn’t even get all the names right for the festivals that used.  Despite all that, the Four Feasts of the Year as celebrated by the druids of Rilmorn have become a deep part of the myth and lore of my world.  So, I am pleased to keep them, use them in Pellham, and add a lunar calendar to help with the verisimilitude of the setting.

I am basing my new lunar calendar on the Celtic Tree Calendar.  My sources for this are The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray and Celtic Tree Magic by Danu Forest.  While some dispute the historical validity of such a calendar, it is irrelevant for Rhillmoran.  Rhillmoran is not Earth and history and myth unfolded differently there than it did here.  The Druids of Iolta count the beginning of the Year on Samhain the first day of Beith or Birch.

The people of Pellham don’t use the largest of the moons (with its 38 day cycle) in their calendar, because legend holds that The Eldest Sister no longer watches Rhillmoran.  Her gaze is turned outward from world to watch for the return of Bazel, so that The Three Sisters may be ready do battle with him and prevent his return.  So, the Months are only 36 days long, since the two remaining moons have a 9 day cycle and 4 day cycle and they synchronize once every 36 days.  This will have little effect on my Players’ perceptions, but I hope to use the magical significance of each month’s tree to shade the adventures taken during those months and hopefully that will affect my Players’ perceptions.

So, dear readers, what do you do to make your settings distinct to your Players?

Game On!

So, You’re an Adventurer (or What Makes You so Special?)

A while back, D. over at Fleur du mal linked to Rick Stump’s post Monsters of the Id on his site Don’t Split the Party.  Rick’s post begins with a digression about how many people never read the entirety of the rules set and uses an example of how he guest DMed and brought low a party of 3rd to 5th level PCs with a standard patrol encounter.  This, along with D.’s post on High Men – a subset of humanity in his game world, set me to thinking about how “heroes” became “heroes” in Rhillmoran.

I admit that until I read Rick’s post I had not read all the random encounters section on the 1E DMG and was not aware that 5 in 20 encounters in Inhabited Outdoor Areas were with patrols of fighters or rangers on horseback led by a 6th to 8th level Commander, seconded by a 4th to 5th level Lieutenant, or that these patrols included a 2nd to 3rd level Sergeant, 3 to 4 1st level men-at-arms, and 13 to 24 soldiers (See page 182, Dungeon Masters Guide © 1979).  Also, there will be either a 6th or 7th cleric or a 5th to 8th level magic user with the patrol.  This got me to reexamining other Random Encounter Matrices.  The City/Town Encounters section (pages 190-192, 194) of the DMG showed me that City Guard and City Watch encounters included fighters, clerics, and magic users and that a randomly encountered cleric could be 11th level and have 5 attendant clerics of 4th level with him or her.  Clearly, the PCs weren’t the only members of society to have adventuring classes. (2016.04.29)

In Greyhawk Adventures by James M. Ward © 1988, there is a section on beginning your campaign with 0 (zero) level characters (pages 117-126).  Using this option, nobodies can work their way up to somebodies of importance.  This is, clearly, a take on the idea that it is not one’s social class or bloodline that makes one a hero; it is one’s actions and choices that makes one a hero.  This seems so at odds with 4E and its emphasis on Epic Destinies and minions.  I seem to recall a passage about 4E fighters that said even a veteran of multiple wars would only be a 1st or 2nd level fighter (I can’t find a reference for that passage at this time).  In 1E, adventurers are defined by what they do, not by what they can do.  In 4E, adventurers are defined by what they can do; they are inherently different than the hoi polloi of the rest of creation.  What changed and why and what does it say about how I am going to develop NPCs and societies on Iolta and Thrain? (2016.04.29)

Clearly in 1E, the PCs weren’t the only people with adventuring classes, but they were the main ones going out and “adventuring.”  I don’t really know what was going on in 2E, since I treated everything as if I was still running 1E.  3E made a distinction between PC classes and NPC classes and 4E PCs were a separate breed entirely.  Ever since the implementation of the CR system, there has been a growing distinction between the PCs and everyone else.  I don’t know if that distinction still applies in 5E or not.  I still haven’t picked up the 5E DMG, so I don’t know what it says, but my reading of the DnD Next Playtest rules, the Players Handbook and the Monster Manual, I suspect that the distinction is extremely lessened, if not completely removed.  If that is not the case in D&D Official Settings, it is Rhillmoran.

For many years, I had players that assumed that every orc encounter was with an orc that had class levels.  Why because I believed that if a PC could do, so could an NPC.  The reverse is also true anything an NPC can do, a PC can learn to do, as well.  If the super evil wizard boss can cast 25 hit die fireballs, then the PC wizards who take her down can learn how she could do such magical feats.  If the PCs don’t want to make a pact with Mephistopheles, then they don’t get cast 25 hit die fireballs.

Having adventuring classes among the clearly non-adventuring populace says all sorts of things about how D&D societies work, but I am going to ignore those things for now.  What I want to focus on is why the PCs are adventurers in the first place.  Why do people with very little in common gather together in commando style groups and set out to loot ruins and do daring do?

They’re misfits, also known as Red Nose Reindeer Syndrome.  Adventurers are people who do not fit into the rest of society.  They have something in their personalities that make them outsiders in their own communities and/or even families.

They are laggards, also known as I want to Win the Lottery Syndrome.  The PCs are folks who are looking for the big score.  They will go out of their way and do more work than necessary, just get out of work.  They enter each dungeon with the hope that they will escape with a dragon’s hoard and never have to work again.

They are thrill seekers, also known as Adventurer Syndrome.  Everyday life is boring.  There are only so many cliffs one can use to base jump before base jumping gets stale.  Dungeons provide so many more thrills.  One can face horrible monsters, deadly traps, and grueling self-torture.  It’s awesome!

They are heroes, also known as They are Heroes Syndrome.  The PCs are adventurers because they are the ones who stand up and do when things need doing.  They may clothe it in terms of mercenary greed or proving one’s self or fulfilling destiny, but the PCs go into the dungeons, slay the dragons, and rescue the princes because they are the ones that will do it; they are heroes.  When the call to action has been sounded and others cannot or will not, the PCs rise and do or die trying.  The queen may be a 15th level fighter.  She may stand with her generals and soldiers and defend the city gates, she isn’t an adventurer. She isn’t going to sneak into the orc encampment and assassinate the orc cambion warlord leading the Horde.  The PCs will, because they are heroes.  It is what they do.

Game On!

 

An Epiphany of Time (or Does Gregory Know When the Prophecy Will be Fulfilled?)

On this the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I want to talk about my attempts at cosmology and calendar keeping.  Before I get to that, I would like you, dear reader, to drop over to Falling Toward Mythopoesis and check out Sarah McCabe’s commentary on Christmas and time keeping.

When I started creating Rilmorn, I decided that Rillmorn had two suns, three moons, and twenty-six hour days.  I did this mostly to be difficult, but soon those features of my game.  My Players and I soon began discussing what would the effect of three moons be upon lycanthropes.  I told my players that Rillorrn was at the apex of triangle formed by the two suns and Rillmorrn and that they all orbited around a central point and that led to all sort of questions concerning the three body problem and how the axial tilt of the world affected the apparent positions of the suns based on the seasons.  I gave the three moons orbital cycles of 4, 9, and 38 days and using those numbers, I created a three-year perpetual calendar that covered the times each moon was full.  While my Players and I often forgot what day it was supposed to be in the campaign, I often got to use those 36 pages to set up important ceremonies and planar openings in game based on which moons were full and were they fell in the seasons.  Over time I added a wandering star that appeared ever 26 years, “God’s Eye,” a comet with a 27 year cycle named the “Dragon’s Tear,” and Mondham, a city that appears for a year once every 7 years.  I never successfully added those cosmological events into my calculations.

Given all this information, I should be able to pinpoint the date of Llywelyn’s Return, but after the Cataclysm that precipitated transition from 2E to 3E, the suns named Mercy and Justice were no longer in synchronous orbit with Rillmorn.  With that, I have too many variables to track.  Fortunately, my friend Thom made me a website that can.  Using this calendar and the information that I created to fit the Prophecy, I know that Llywelyn is prophesied to return 1 Aris 2029 Age of Wyrms.  This stuff makes it much easier to work out prophecies and track celebrations and holy days.  Do any of you have similarly complex calendar/cosmologies?

Game On!

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!

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)