Chessenta

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!

Advertisements

Beltane

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!

Io-Vol (A Dragon for My 52nd Birthday)

So, my inaugural post of 2016 is going to be about a dragon.  Are you surprised, dear reader?  You really shouldn’t be.  Today, I present unto you the Dreamwrath Dragon, Io-Vol.

When I got the 4E book, Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons, I was thrilled.  It was, yet, another jewel in my relatively extensive hoard of tomes.  It held the two lost metallic dragon-types that I love the best (the brass and the bronze).  It had draconians.  It had a cool dragon-led organization that attempted to control the portals to Sigil.  But the pièce de résistance was the picture of an artifact on page 79: the flask holding the Blood of Io.

The Blood of Io was held in a flask shaped like a sitting dragon with it wings folded at its back and its tail wrapped widdershins around its base.  The stopper of the bottle was a horned dragon that had two faces.  It appeared that the head of the dragon was going through mitosis and had yet to form two distinct wholes.  I loved it.

Now, I do not use the dragon creation mythology of the Forgotten Realms setting, so I had no use for the artifact as it was written.  The image was so compelling, it nigh demanded to be used in a game and since I could not use the artifact as it was, I took to looking for other ideas to help me use the Blood of Io (Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons PP 78-79)) in Rilmorn.  After much thought I added the Blood of Vol (a religion from the Ebberon setting (Eberron Campaign Guide, PP 248-251) and the dreambreath dracolich from Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (PP 78-79).  With all three parts, I crafted the history and powers of Io-Vol the Dreamwrath Dragon and her blood.

Io-Vol is a dragon, now, long lost to time, but age ago, she tormented her foes and terrified her children and allies by her power over dreams.  Io-Vol had the power to manifest in any of her descendants (literally, in anyone who bore her blood), as long that being was dreaming.  In addition to this power, Io-Vol was a powerful dream mage and had access to spells that could force her targets into REM sleep when ere she chose.  This gave her the ability to appear anywhere in the world at any time.

Only Io-Vol remembers who or what brought about her downfall, because only she is left.  Whoever or whatever killed all the beings that bore any kinship to Io-Vol.  While she was still a powerful spellcaster and enchanter, Io-Vol was rendered weak with her ability to travel freely and safely about the world taken from her.  Io-Vol knew it was only a matter of time before her enemies came for her, so she began to craft a magic flask to act as her touchstone to reality and a backup plan.

When Io-Vol finished her crafting, she filled it with her blood and sent it away.  She then began casting a series of spells and rituals that would render her immortal.  Before she finished her work, her enemies found her.  While they slew Io-Vol, theirs’ was a pyrrhic victory.  Io-Vol lived on in a dreamscape of her own making and was able to manifest in the material world once again, when beings began to use the artifact containing her blood, the Blood of Io-Vol.  With this power, she destroyed the last of her enemies, but lost the flask holding her Blood.  Io-Vol fell into a dreamless sleep and remained there, until the Blood of Io-Vol reappeared in the world.

The Blood of Io-Vol appeared in my game and was used by Feldspar, a shifter warden.  When he used its powers in combat, the Blood compelled him to eat the hearts of his fallen enemies.  In time, he and his fellow adventurers slew a dragon and Feldspar ate its heart.  Feldspar transformed into a dragon and became subject to Io-Vol’s dream magics when he fell asleep.  After an encounter with faery magic Feldspar shed his dragon form and hid the Blood of Io-Vol, but not before Io-Vol discovered and freed one of sons who had been trapped in a mirror of life trapping for centuries before Io-Vol fell to her enemies.

Io-Vol is becoming more active in the world of Rilmorn.  She is being drawn to Lord Doresh of the Fading Dream on Zentlan and to Metabular, a dragon in the dreamscape known as the Isle of Celstia.  Soon, she may make a new bid for power on her old home world.

Game On!

Random Musings (or Traveling Parallel Planes)

So, on All Saints Day 2015, my wife and I took a day trip to Gatlinburg, TN.  When her Waze voice told her to turn left on West Athens St, I complained that I didn’t want to go on West Athens St; I wanted to take Hwy 211.  (Just so you understand, West Athens St and Hwy 211 are the same road.)  Once, I had expressed my silliness, I immediately began thinking about game applications of this idea.  I got out my phone and opened up my sound recorder and babbled for almost two minutes.  When I was done, my wife told me that what I had recorded was a blog post in itself.  So, now, I am going to attempt to transcribe my recording for you.

Have you ever wondered about roads, especially roads that have multiple names at the same time?  Now, in some cases, it is because a really long highway goes through multiple municipalities and it changes names along the way for each town or village that it goes through; though many people know it by the highway name.  Then other times, you will end up traveling down the interstate and all of a sudden you will see that I-85 is now I-85 and I-75 and you didn’t do anything…different.  You, just, were traveling along and, all of a sudden, there it was.

What if…What if what’s happening isn’t that municipalities are changing the names to fit local ideas or images or roads merging?  What if it’s realities overlapping and if you knew how to travel, you could get off in a different universe than the one in which you started or, maybe worse, what if you did end up in a different universe and you did not realize it?

What then?

What if?

So, what ideas might you all take from these random thoughts?  I’ve got a great plan for a fairly famous elven town on Rilmorn.  Until next time…Game On!

Slaadi

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.

Slaadi

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!

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!

D is for…

…Divlos, the continent where my desert campaign takes place?  …Dwarf, one of the Seven Races of Marn?  …Draakrill, the house that I have been designing for the last 30 years?  No.  People, I am Gregory.  D can only stand for one thing: Dragon!  I could just link to a previous post and call this topic covered, but that would be disingenuous.  So, here we go.

Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten. — G. K. Chesterton, as quoted in Coraline (2004) by Neil Gaiman, epigraph.

Of course, dragons exist and can be beaten.  Ask Ray and Mike about the seven-headed dragon Babylon.  Christina, James, Hil, and Matt could tell you about the death of Menethesis, an argentyl dragon.  John, Thom, and Mike most likely remember the sea dragon that they slew and then turned its corpse into a boat.  Let us not forget that Charonus Eybender and the House of Wild Geese slew Tel-Mordin the Feared, not once, but twice.  Dragons can be beaten and they are, but not all dragons on Rilmorn are to be fought.

Some dragons exist as plot hooks or background.  Rick, Mike, and Thom might remember Dhivanara, the Dragon of the Purple Sands.  She was a dragon whose body was made up of time elementals and other chronally charged entities and she aged time-creatures were escaping from her form.  Dhivanara charged the party with traveling to the lair of Chronepsis, the Dragon of Fate, and steal her life glass and hide it in Castle Timeless, so that she would cease aging.  Chronpesis appeared multiple times in the Spellguard campaign.  Christina, James, Hil, and Matt may remember him watching the Battle of the Fall of Spellguard during their jaunt into the past.  Maybe they recall the time, Chronepsis appeared after Ghul tried to break the Past Scrying Brazier of the Kron by forcing it to look to the future?  If not either of those times, surely one of them will recall when they had to save Dhivara from the chronal assassins, so she could lay the egg in Spellguard that hatched the triple form of Chronepsis.  Both of these dragons are vastly powerful, but neither of them threatened the heroes, nor gave them great treasures.  Dhivanara always acted as a plot hook.  While Chronepsis did interact with the PCs, he was ultimately window dressing…a reminder that there are stronger and stranger things than the PCs out there.

Some dragons are NPCs.  Prince Vanik of Arkohsia is an orium dragon that appears to the world as a brown dragonborn.  He plays the same role as duke or a queen in a more standard fantasy roleplaying setting; he’s just personally stronger and more powerful than your average ruler.  While Gareth Eybender, Belvar Duerar, and Feldspar von Quan, all began as standard Player Characters, they are now silver dragons and NPCs in my game.  They will no doubt appear in future games.  Dragons, as NPCs, give me characters that live for millennia, but do not have a hominid perspective.  Even those dragons that began as marn soon begin to take on different goals and perspectives than their original races.  Dragons make for alien allies and inscrutable foes.

The Age of Dragons has come and gone on Rilnorn and, now, the world is in the Age of Wyrms.  Ancient, often forgotten, beasts are stirring.  Pieces are being moved in The Great Game and even great adventurers may be no more than pawns in Games that Dragons Play. What dragons do you remember fondly from your days at the Gaming Table, dear readers?  Until next time, 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!

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!