Retconing (or How to Get From Terah to Nibiru)

During my downtime from actively running a game, I have started to work on my settings and I have discovered something upsetting.  I have found better ideas for things, than those that I originally created or stole.  Now, what do I do?

During the Dark Time, after the glory of Second Edition was over and before the messianic arrive of Third Edition, I decided to run a campaign that was set on a world other than Rilmorn.  I had planned on using only modules and nothing else…No Gregory Created Stuff.  I failed, but I did end up with a fairly cool setting based of B2 Keep on the Borderlands and Return to Keep on the Borderlands.  The PCs started at and basecamped out of Kendal Keep, a keep on the borders of the Empire of Namoria.  I never named the world, because I didn’t need it.  Years and campaigns later, I would name it Terah.  Now, I want to change its name to Nibiru.  I never heard of Nibiru, until I was watching Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated.  Later, when I was rewatching Star Trek: Into Darkness, I noticed the opening sequence took place on the world of Nibiru.  Thus, my desire for the name change.

During the last game I ranin my Pellham campaign, I named an NPC Gabardine.  I knew that she was one of five “sisters” and I decided that three of the others would be named Fescue, DoTerra, and Cusped.  The fifth sister is to have an “E” name.  I later decided that DoTerra would be an alchemist and Cusped, a mage working with the Teeth of Dahlver-Nar.  Then, I decided I needed to have one sister that worked magic with plants and one that worked magic with cloth, but I’ve already got one name wrong…Gabardine is a florist.

What do I do?  I retcon!

I can’t retcon, because I believe this (I wrote this as a rebuttal in a debate about Lucas’ retooling of Star Wars.”

To alter a work once it is released to the public is be unfair to the audience, forever tweaking something prevents it audience from being able to fully connect with the work, because there are multiple versions and analogues of the work and any of them could be the true work.  I know how it feels to put something out there and then decide it is flawed.  Even though I presented it to two different audiences, I should not have changed the wording of my poem.  Now, there exist two quanta of the same work, but I have undermined the readers of the first version of the poem.  I have effectively told my first readers that what they got was crap.  It does not matter that there is very little to change in a two stanza poem, but it doesn’t matter.  It says that I put out bad stuff that I of which wasn’t proud.  Altering Star Wars is no different…

I can’t just change a draft and then run my campaign.  I’ve already put these events out to the public.  In days past, I told Mike Magee about the quintuplets born to a descendant of his character Gareth Eybender.  I never got to run those NPCs at that time, so years later when I found Ptolus, I could lift the name Danar and rename Janel the Herald’s oldest child without incident.  My two examples of Terah/Nibiru and Gabardine/Fescue are both events that have “been published.”  They are given events.

I see way to fix each of these problems.  With the Gabardine/Fescue event, I tell my plyers about my desired change and then if they agree with it, it changes.  The Terah/Nibiru change is a more of a cheat.  Not every culture calls the world upon which it dwells the same name.  Even on Rilmorn, where everyone does use the same name, each culture alters the spelling and sometimes the pronunciation.  So, Terah is the gnomes name for their former homeworld.  Everyone else gets to call it Nibiru and I get to steal the crazy that goes along with the story of Planet X.  Will I do them?

So, until we meet again, 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!

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!

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!

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!

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!