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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game On!

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What I Do and Do Not Like About D&D

Raven Crowking posts here about why it is important to be honest when talking about 5E: the latest rendition of Dungeons and Dragons.  He rightly points out that letting people know what you don’t like about something is as important a letting them know what you do like.  I agree with him, but I have a few caveats.  Being negative for the sake of appearing to be cutting edge, cool, or savvy is a sign of being a jerk.  The opposite pole of being a “Yes Man” and only saying positive things can be equally damaging.  If one only talks about the good things, one can skip right over parts of thing that make it miserable; this is the style of Sleazy Hucksters and Sycophants.  Giving an honest critique of a thing can and should lead to its improvement.  I hope my post proves to be an honest critique.  Thus, with this preface, I begin my “What I like and what I do not like post.”

If we take the Way Back Machine back to the Days of First Edition, we are likely to discover that most of the complaints I had about the system back then are forgotten.  It was new.  It was fun.  It stretched our imaginations and gave us hours and hours of fun.  Having said that, I must admit that I grew dissatisfied with some things in 1E.  I didn’t like alignment (and still don’t).  I found a great article on a relativistic alignment system in Dragon 101 by Paul Suttie: “For King and Country: An alignment system based on cause and effect.”  I’ve been using that idea for alignment ever sense.  I, also, felt that the minute combat round was just too abstract and was very happy when they changed it.

Second Edition, originally, offended me on aesthetic and grognard grounds.  I liked having Seven Levels of clerical spells and Nine Levels of magic user spells in 1E; it corresponded nicely to the mythology and symbolism that I had developed for Realmorein.  So, the change to Nine Levels for both spell casting classes really put me off for a while.  In time I got over that and had a great time running 2E.  TSR gave me tons of settings to use: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Al Qadim to name a few.  There were loads of classes and variants to try.  My only real complaint is that that not all of the systems designed for all of the variants were well thought out.  Sometimes, what was written about how things worked just didn’t make sense.  I know a lot of folks didn’t like THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0 (zero)); they found trying to figure out what number they needed to hit a foe perplexing…I just used the combat tables on my 1E DM screens and never really worried about it.

Third Edition!  The year 2000 AD was to be a watershed year, when I was growing up.  It would be the year that we got flying cars and had a colony on the moon and were prepping for interplanetary, if not interstellar flight.  We got Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition; which was almost as good.  I was looking forward to 3E.  I had started a campaign away from Rilmorn, so that when 3E came out, we could start fresh from the ground up without any holdovers or complications (that didn’t work out, but that is another story).  I failed at 3E from the word, “Go.”

I didn’t like the idea that magic item creation was now an “assembly line-style” option for spellcasters.  I was poor at designing challenging combats for my players.  I just didn’t get how to equip my NPCs, so that my PCs could get their stuff and be appropriately equipped for their level.  I didn’t like the advancement scale; in 1E and 2E PCs remained at mid-levels for a long time and there was a lot of good play in those levels.  The tactical nature of the game bored me; I am not a tactics guy.  Finally, I grew to despise the idea of the Adventure Path (AP).  I believe in plot arcs and character and story development, but APs with the built in assumption that the PCs would begin as nobodies, follow a particular plot, and end as…Whatevers in a completely changed setting (How many APs end with the death of a god or demon prince?), wore me down.  At this moment, I can’t think of anything that I liked about 3E. (2014.07.10)

4E was a fun game, but it was not D&D, as I wanted to play it.  All of the classes were balanced.  Advancement seemed reasonable, not too fast and not too slow.  There was a lot of good fluff to use in developing backgrounds, plot hooks, and storylines.  There were bad things, IMO, about 4E, too.  It was a tactics games.  Magic item placement became a true joke…Don’t like the magic items provided by the GM, melt them down and make your own!  The whole game was designed to fit an AP style of play (Character Class > Paragon Path > Epic Destiny).  Finally and most damning is the fact that by the end all the classes had the same powers; they just had different skins on them.

DnD Next, Fifth Edition, 5E, call it what you want, so far, I like it.  Magic items are once again magic.  Power curve and advancement seem reasonable (may be wrong, but I’ve got to run a lot more games and find out).  Classes are distinct.  The only complaint I have, at the moment, is Hit Point recovery seems too easy, but I’m already using an optional rule from the play test and that seems to fix that problem.  I like the basic rules.  I like the play test materials.  I’m looking forward to using this edition for a while.

Whatever edition or system you prefer, I hope you play it as often as you wish and enjoy it.  Until next time, Game On!

Edition Wars (or OH, NO! Here We Go Again)

I’ve seen various people post about the announcement of 5E – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition release dates.  Some are jaded and feel that it has all been done before.  Others are offering a depressed, but optimistic, hope that it will be good.  Various forums have people shouting for their favorite edition or bemoaning the idea that Wizards of the Coast are trying to get more money out of them.  I was going to keep quiet about the whole deal and do my best to ignore it.  I can’t.

Having played D&D starting with the Holmesian Blue Book version of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and played through each and every version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to date, including the playtest version DnD Next, I have an opinion on this subject.  I’m tired of the fighting.  That’s my opinion.

Edition Wars did not begin with 3E.  They began with Basic and Advanced.  There was enough demand for Basic Dungeons and Dragons that TSR built an entire product line around the Known World (what would become known as Mystara).  This happened right alongside Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  People would meet up in game stores, at conventions, and, later, on online bulletin board systems to deride and attack the other side for selling out or being poor gamers.  This is not new.

The wars did not end with one’s preferred version of D&D.  People would fight over Role Playing vs. Roll Playing.  (Sound familiar?)  Munchkins were vilified by True Role Players.  Monty Haul Games were ridiculed as low brow, beer and pretzel games by those who believed themselves more sophisticated.  Gary Gygax even took umbrage against those who didn’t play Real Dungeons and Dragons (I talk about that article in this post).  It is all the same story: “Do it my way or hit the highway.”

It gets even uglier, when one considers other games by other companies.  “How could you play Runequest; it’s a D&D rip off?”  “Call of Cthulhu is just superior to any other RPG because it uses percentile dice and has a literary foundation.”  “How can you play Rolemaster?  It’s all tables.”  Go ahead pick a game and I’d feel comfortable betting that I can find a website that has proponents that feel that all other games are stupid.  I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

Grognards have always existed.  They were even present at the release of 2E.  A long time ago, I was given a small, typewritten, piece of paper that humorously and ironically described the transition from 1E to 2E.  It talked about the shift from Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms.  It joked about the sudden change of paladins to cavaliers.  There were other sly observations about how the “new” D&D universe worked, but it ended with the very unkind idea that only stupid people would want Gary Gygax back in charge of D&D and that good, smart people would kill anyone who tried.  When it dawned on me that that type of thinking was fanaticism and the same ignorance espoused by those who didn’t want to change from their beloved edition to whatever new was coming out, I got rid of it.  I do not want to be one of those that promotes hate, even in what is meant to be a joke.  There will always be those who fear or hate change.  It is sad, but true.

To those who bemoan the fact that WotC is trying to make more money, I’ve only this to say, “Of course, they are; Wizards of the Coast is a business and if they don’t make money, they have to quit being a business!”  This is no different than Pazio selling Pathfinder or Monte Cook selling Numenera.  It is their job to make stuff for gamers to buy.  If you don’t want to support the people whose jobs it is to design, write, and publish games, game modules, and gaming supplements, then don’t buy the stuff they put out and quit trying to make those people that do buy their products feel bad for buying what they want to buy.

I doubt it happen, but I do wish the gaming community at large would grow up.  A new edition does not diminish your personal games in any way.  People playing with different styles of game play are not better or lesser than you and you do not need to “convert them to the true path of gaming.”  Maybe the newest edition on the block isn’t all that new in its concepts or game play.  Maybe it is a ploy to get people to buy more stuff.  Maybe it is better than anything that has gone before it.  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  If you don’t want it, don’t get it.  If you don’t like it, don’t do it.  Unless gaming is a virus and one needs to be inoculated to prevent the spread of disease, let it go and enjoy what you have.

DMing with Charisma posted a response to this post and I really like it.

I found A Brief History of the Edition Wars by Admiral Ironbombs on his site Logic is my Virgin Sacrifice to Reality.  Please check it out.

 

Until we meet again, Game On!

Campaign Synopses

Bill Collins, a friend, suggested that I write back-of-book blurbs for my latest campaign Ideas.  I’m not happy with them all, but it was a good exercise and I hope that it makes my ideas more easy to digest.

Arkhosia

Others may call you dragonborn or dragonspawn, draconian or even half-dragon, but you know that you are Arkhosian. It matters not, whether you were born in the enclave growing among the ruined Fortress-State or you came to be part of the glorious work of Prince Vanik the Restorer, you are an Arkhosian and a citizen of the Fortress-State. Will you explore the still hidden depths of your home? Will you stand the walls and defend your home and family from those that would take what is rightfully yours? Will you seek to uncover the secrets of Arkhosia’s past or travel under Prince Vanik’s banner to parley with other nations of Dragons and Dragonkin? What is your destiny? What glory will you claim, as Arkhosia rises from the cold ashes of a forgotten past?

 

Davion

Davion is an isolated, coastal village grown up around the Old Tower and the New House added to it by the wizard Davion. It is your home. You fondly remember summer nights spent scaling ivy-covered walls to run along the rooflines and play “Hide and Sneak” with friends and family. No, you mean, you loved the cool autumn days spent sitting on benches in well kept courtyards discussing the basics of Wizardry with your parents. No, winter was your favorite time. You spent your time walking the snow-muddied, wagon-rutted roads of your village, hunting elk and bear with your parents, or drinking mead in the Long House at the center of town. Could have enjoyed spring anymore? You remember with great fondness, the first time you were allowed to into the Old Tower of the Temple that forms the heart of your village…Davion?

Your village changes. Some days it is a wizard’s dream village with orderly, intellectual citizens and spell component shops on every corner. Other times it is a frontier village with cold, gray skies and buildings made of rough hewn logs. Still on other days it is other places and only few seem to notice. You and your friends notice the changes, as do the mad people living on the edge of Davion. They claim that everyone is trapped in Davion and no one can leave. What will you do? Will you stay? Will you try to leave? Will you find out who, Davion imprisons? What secrets does your village hold and what will it do to keep them?

 

Pellham

Of all the kingdoms in Iolta or Thrain, none is more storied than Pellham. Other kingdoms may have longer histories, but not one has had more or greater heroes. No kingdom can boast of having more sacred sites than Pellham. There is not a single kingdom, not even Cumberland, has more Fey Crossings than Pellham. Pellham is a kingdom of adventure. Even now, it is caught in the middle of a Fulfilling Prophecy. The line of the ancient kings is to return and would-be heroes from around the Sea of Man are heading to Pellham to make their name and write their deeds upon glorious history. Will you do any less?

Arkhosia

Arkhosia – the Fortress-State.  Arkhosia – Home of the Dragonborn.  Arkhosia – Realm of Dragons.

If one leaves the city of Refuge and the Lands Within the White Wall, then travels northeast for five days, one enter a valley -a scar from the impact of a meteor.  In that valley, stands the defensive fortification known as Arkhosia.  Once abandoned and forgotten, Arkhosia is being restored and is rising again to stride among the powerful.

In the Dungeons & Dragons 4E default setting, Arkhosia was the ancient, dragronborn empire that fell, in mutually assured destruction, with the diabolic, tiefling empire Bael Turath.  Much of the fluff and crunch around dragonborn and their powers in 4E revolves around the memory of Arkhosia.  It inspired me to build an Arkhosia on Rilmorn.

In my game, dragonborn claim descent from the children and followers of two wizards from Mythgold – the Underground City of Wizards.  The first dragonborn were humans, elves, and dwarves who drank dragon blood from the Chalice of Dragons.  These are the standard dragonborn of the books, but there are other dragonborn.  In Sigil, there are small, segregated enclaves of dragonborn.  Each community is made up of dragonborn of a single color, the color of one of the five  chromatic dragon types.  These dragonborn claim to the descendants of the Dragonborn of Arkhosia, the true dragonborn.  Thus, there is some animosity between the two branches dragonborn.

So, the Players in the Giants in the Earth campaign got to encounter snippets of Arkhosia.  Surana (Christina’s dragonborn ranger) was taken to Arkhosia, by a strange black dragonborn drake hunter named Sargon, to help him hunt fell drakes.  She left Sargon, after she learned of his anti-dragon attitudes.  Surana, later, went to Sigil and got involved with Kharrus, a blue dragonborn.  Prince Vanik, a brown dragonborn, was exploring Spellguard, looking for Arkhosian artifacts.  E3 learns of a portal that connects the catacombs below Sceptre Tower to the lower levels of Arkhosia and of the dragon bone portal key needed to operate it.  During a time travel jaunt into the past; Aktara and T’Ba stole the Battle Standard of Arkhosia.  Surana took Kharrus as her mate and to escape the persecution of the chromatic dragonborn of Sigil, fled back to Spellguard.  Prince Vanik revealed himself to be an orium dragon and offered his protection, if Surana and Kharrus agreed to hatch their egg in Arkhosia.  Thus began the push to restore Arkhosia.  Dragonborn from Sigil and dragonborn from Mythgold accept Prince Vanik’s invitation to immigrate to Arkhosia.  Some humanoid dragonspawn and some draconians petition prince Vanik for sanctuary and they join the growing community.  Surana wished for a tower that connected Spellguard and Arkhosia and that was the last of the Arkhosian event in recorded history.

There was a lot more Arkhosia, than I thought there was, in the Giants in the Earth campaign.

So with that as background, here’s my plan for an Arkhosia campaign.  Every PC is “dragonish;” be they dragonborn, dragonspawn, draconian, or something similar.  I may allow a human or a dwarf that has a “dragon soul,” but I’ve got to think on that.  In addition to fighting and exploring (Arkhosia still has lots of hidden and damaged areas), the PCs will be sent on diplomatic missions by Prince Vanik to Dragon Isle and the Half-Dragon Monastery.  There will be a lot dragons and dragon type creatures for the PCs to encounter.  There may be a subplot examining the origins of dragonborn.  All of this would be loads of fun for me to run; it hits my obsession.

Game on!

Davion

I do not use the game conceit of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror.  I do not find the idea of characters trapped in a mystical prison for the truly evil to be a campaign that I want to run or play.  Even if I don’t use the Ravenloft “world,” I still find lots of great material in the Ravenloft setting.  Taking parts of the source material and using them as set pieces can provide a sense of unease and terror within a campaign that is unexpected and filled with fun.

In my Tasque Elzeny campaign, I didn’t just use the source material as an adventure location.  I used it as the home base and setting of the campaign.  Unlike the original module I6: Ravenloft and the Ravenloft box set, the PCs were never trapped in the setting.  No darklord was ever trapped by Dark Powers in Barovia or Mordentshire.  Castle Ravenloft was to be an adventure site and maybe a home base for the PCs, if they reclaimed their “ancestral home.”  Most everything I took from the Ravenloft and Gothic Earth material was “sense data.”  It was information and fluff to evoke a Hammer Film vibe…a Vincent Price air…a Boris Karloff ambience.  Now, how would things be different, if I took the source material and kept as close to the game conceit as possible?

In the D&D 2E hardback Domains of Dread, there is a section on pocket domains, “…domains located within other domains.”  I am considering taking some pocket domains and combining them into a setting for a new campaign.  Three pocket domains stand out as pieces of this setting: Aggarath (from The Forgotten Terror”), the “House of Lament,” and “Davion” (both from Domains of Dread).

Aggarath appears in The Forgotten Terror – the sequel to Castle Spulzeer, a Forgotten Realms adventure module.  Aggarath is both a Domain of Dread and the pommel jewel of the dagger Aggarath.  Persons killed with Aggarath, find themselves trapped inside the domain Aggarath.  Aggarath is the prison realm of Chardath, the last of a depraved family.  Thanks to his poor rearing and an overly developed sense of revenge, Chardath allied himself to a lich and murdered his sister; now he dwells trapped in a dodecahedron-domain, wherein his memories and his fears are made manifest.  People slain by Aggarath have a chance to escape this domain.  They must gather 3 enchanted rubies and a silver key to open the portal out of Aggarath.  Aggarath reminds me of movies from the 1970s where a character is trapped in someone’s psychedelic nightmares and rushes around trying to escape.

The domain named the House of Lament is a strange one.  The House is both the domain and the demilord of the domain.  It began its existence as a bandit lord’s castle.  The bandit lord stole the daughter of another lord and entombed her in a tower wall of his castle to appease the gods and make his castle impervious to attack.  The woman’s horrific death wakened something that drove bandits mad or killed them.  The castle fell into ruins, except for the tower where the woman had been entombed.  Sometime later, a merchant added a new house to the still standing tower.  In time, the Spirit of the Tower or the deranged spirit of the woman killed the man and his family.  Now, anyone who stays too long in House of Lament is trapped, driven mad, and killed.  It is an Amityville Horror house.

Davion, the name of both the domain and its demilord, is my favorite Domain of Dread.  A wizard, desiring ever more power, accidently wished three adventurers into his body.  The combined power of these four being was such that they could actually control reality around them.  Depending upon which psyche was dominant at the time, their shared body and their surroundings changed to fit his or her reality.  Only Davion knew true situation and only Davion could use the powers and information of the others.  It drove him mad and to acts of great brutality to keep his new power.  Eventually, he is drawn into the Mists and given a domain.  The domain shifts appearance, as the each psyche takes control of the body.  Augustus the Mage lives in an orderly village filled to meet the needs of any wizard.  Boromar the Warrior transforms the area into a frontier town on a cold, clear day.  Narana the Priestess worships at a large temple in the center of a small town caressed with warm spring breezes.  Ruins of an earthquake aftermath fill the area, when Davion is master of his own body.  The personalities fade and surface without notice or warning, so the village and surrounding area are ever-changing world of madness.  The locals never seem to notice the changes, but it could easily mess with both Players and PCs senses of reality.

Now, what I may do is place Aggarath on Davion’s person and it is the only thing that will not change when the body shifts psyches.  The House of Lament will be in the center of town and while the tower will remain the same, the house attached to it will become a temple, a school, or a long house as the psyche of the demilord changes.  It would still have dark rumors spread about it, but the deaths caused by the house would be fewer and less obvious.  Finally, the town of Davion will be set on an isolated coast far from civilization.

In this setting, the PCs are among the few that notice the way their world changes.  They have heard rumors of madness and death about the House of Lament.  The area in which Davion is located will be geologically unstable; earthquakes are relatively common.  While the PCs know that there are five (yes, 5) different people who share the same body space, most of the villagers are only aware of one, whichever one is dominate at that time.  All of this knowledge would put the PCs at odds with the most of the village.  The PCs get to see the workings of the setting, but may not be able to do anything about it.

I’d make the Players create multiclass characters.  Magic items and otherwise mundane equipment may have shapeshifting properties.  Davion would be the big or maybe hidden villain for some, if not most, of the campaign.  He would be trying to absorb the PCs to increase his power.

What do you, Dear Readers, think?

Game On!

Iolta and Thrain

Rilmorn, as I conceived of the world, has three times the surface area of Earth, so it always seemed logical that there would be continents that were yet unaccounted.  I had hinted about another continent.  Robert Hegewood, a friend from college worked up an invader’s history for that unnamed continent.  I had long wanted an area that was deeply Celtic in tone. It appeared as Iolta and Thrain.

In early to mid 2013, a fellow member of Old School Gamers asked what people thought about the module Shadows of Evil.  I own it, Evil Ruins, and Throne of Evil; all works by Stephen Bourne.  I told the OSGers that I liked the book and planned on using it, Throne of Evil, C4: To Find a King, and C5: The Bane of Llywelyn as the basis for a new campaign.  Rhonda Hanyes Koti expressed an interest in the final product, so I told her that I would send her a link when I was done.

Around this time, Chris Perkins, in his DnD Online column: The Dungeon Master Experience, posted a link to his new campaign.  It had a flavor that I liked and the map was wonderful.  I stole it; flipped the map, renamed it, and called it mine.  (Yes, I contacted Mr. Perkins and told him about my conscription of his work.)  The rest of the information may be mined at a later date. (Updated link 2014.08.12)

I named the continents Iolta and Thrain and labeled the large island between them Avalian.  The name Iolta (pronounced  ee ole TUH) was taken from the legal acronym IOLTA (pronounced eye ole TUH) meaning Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts.  Thrain is an old name for Wales.  Avalian is at alternate spelling of Avalon.

Now, that I had a continent, I needed a more detailed map of the campaign area.  I took the overland maps of the four modules I had mentioned plus Evil Ruins, Elven Banner, and N2: The Forest Oracle and began mashing them together in GIMP.   I had to fiddle with the scale on occasion, but for the most part it was a simple cut and paste.  I prettied up later and here is the link I sent Rhonda.

Now, that I had my maps, I needed a background for my game.  So, I took all my source material and my limited knowledge of Celtic myth and history and wrote out a History of Iolta and Thrian.  This document is way too long and covers too much to give to most Players, so I will have to chop things down to a minimum and focus the background for any Players in this campaign.  This is far more background than I ever build into most campaigns before they begin.  There is a great chance that the Players will never learn or have need of most of it.

That just left me with putting together a Gazetteer.  I had plenty of places taken from my many maps and so I filled out the information.  This was in many ways the most fun.  I got to lift histories and etymologies from  multiple sources and to editorialize about some locations.  It was really neat.

I’ve added some stuff, since I posted it on Live Journal and I’ve altered a good deal more.  It is a good example of planning too much before a game begins.  There is more information here than I ever had at the beginning of a campaign.  I’ve got multiple plots.  I’ve got loads of NPCs.  History is overwhelming.  I have huge numbers of sites for plot hooks.  It is overwhelming, but if I get to run this campaign, it will give me a Great Cauldron from which to pull ideas and plans.

When I wrote this yesterday, I failed to talk about what changes I have made in this setting since I posted it and what source materials that I am looking to use in this setting.  None of my games are ever created in a vacuum.  I am grateful for my sources and look forward to taking the original material and blending it to fit Rilmorin.  Every time, I read something or watch a movie or video or even listen to music, I can find something that leads me into new ideas for my game.  Since I posted the original Iolta and Thrain stuff back in June of 2013, I have done the following

  • Decided that the founders of The Dwarf Crown were survivors of a Aegol a dwarf kingdom from another world.  This comes from the book Kingdom of the Dwarves.
  • Decided to use a combination of profiles from Deities and Demigods, Dragon Issue 65, Legends and Lore, and Celtic Age to fill out the ranks of the Tuatha De Danu
  • Got out my Ironclaw books and decided to change the walls at the edges of Inverness and Warfield to the Wall of Calabria.  These walls, ancient and mountainous in scope, once marked the boundaries of Calabria.  Calabria, as a kingdom is long vanished, but its Great Houses with their animal standards and totems remain.
  • Added the city of Triskellian from Rinaldi: Supplement for Ironclaw to the map.  It was the capital of Calbria.
  • Changed a line in the descriptor of the Dwarves of the Dwarf Crown to read:  “Insular and slightly xenophobic, the Dwarves of the Dwarf Crown only deal with outsiders at specific trade moots and as members of small, but highly sought after mercenary bands.”  This change came about because my wife wished to play a dwarf in this campaign.

 I’ve done a lot of development on both continents, but where is the action to take place?  It should take place in Pellham (the most detailed area of the map) and Montforte (since one of plots comes from that area and is the location of a premade adventure site).  I may send the PCs into Inverness, since it is the location of the infamous Ghost Tower of Inverness.  Finally, the PCs may end up on Thrain.  The premade adventure that starts in Montforte ends on Thrian.  Anything else will be the work of the Players and their interests.

I’ve been gathering an Iolta and Thrain collection on LibraryThingPlease feel free to check it out (in the upper left corner of the screen, you will see a drop down menu under the name LibraryThing, go to Iolta and Thrain).

Game On!

The Last Hurrah

E3 is officially retired.

The threat posed by the Giants in the Earth is abated.  Feldspar divides his time between wandering the multiverse, seeking more Trees of Power to link to the Quan, and his Primal Forest home.  Surana has completed the restoration of Castle Timeless and defeated Linden; she now rules as the Chronarch of the Castle.  Belvar has transformed the Black Manor in Quan from a staging area for monsters seeking the destruction of all hominid species to an interdimensional trade moot.   Ghul has returned to the Nine Hells to continue his rise to power in the Infernal Hierarchy.  Aktara,once the Far Realm Breach was closed, found that her patron, Ulban, had stripped her of her Star Pact  powers.  Undaunted, Aktara retires to Arkosia to allow the ancient dragon soul within her to manifest.

The End.

These are the final fates of the Members of E3, but it was not the end of the Giants in the Earth campaign.

The last game began with a bang.  We started the game in the middle of a fight.  I told the players to drop half their hit points, half of their healing surges, and half of their encounter powers.  My brother-in-law and nephew could not make it, but Hil and my daughter Nicki could; so Blackwood (my nephew’s PC) accepted help from the Book of Vile Darkness and he and Vondal were sucked up a vortex that spit out Ghul (Hil’s PC) and Aktara (Nicki’s PC).  They defeat the yochlol and headed on toward the first of “giants” Titan.

It was nice to have Ghul and Aktara back in the party, since they filled out the roster of the original members of E3.  The party made it through three difficult fights and one not as difficult skill challenge and won the day.  We epilogued the big threads still unresolved (Belvar was freed of the Verdis implant and not consumed by his ring Al-Bari.  Surana defeated Linden and merged the Centre of Time and Castle Timeless.  Feldspar traveled to Divlos and Thegnland and connected the trees of the Land beyond the Wind and Azenwrath to the Quan.  E3 Trading Company continued to turn a profit and Spellguard grew into a prosperous city-state.) and ended the campaign.  It was a fun night.

Christina and I got to talking about the campaign and we believe that the campaign may have begun in March or at the latest April of 2009.  It started as a game for Surana, Beryl (my daughter Lisa’s PC), and Aktara in the city of Refuge.  They played three or four sessions before the others arrived.  Lisa dropped out of the game before the rest of the crew that would become infamous as the E3 Trading Company appeared on the scene.  So, I ran this campaign for five years.  It was Christina’s first full campaign.  She had never played a character from newbie adventurer to legendary hero.  Ending the game carried a special weight for her.  I have found a similar weight in my soul.

I write out secrets on index cards for things in my world.  I got this idea from Ray Winnigar’s “Dungeoncraft” articles.  Everything that I create gets a secret that the PCs may or may not find out.  Each time the party finds out a secret, I give them the index card.  After the game, we compared their stack against all undiscovered secrets from previous campaigns, the Tasque Elzeny campaign, and the ones they never learned in this campaign.  Their stack was bigger.  They encountered and learned more about Rilmorin than I have left to reveal at this time.  Wow.

I’ve got more ideas and campaign plans, but building a new campaign seems more daunting in some undefinable way, than it did before and I do not know why.  This is not my first rodeo.  I ran the “War of the Dragons;” I set up and set down the final battles with the Overlord and Babylon.  “Berbalang, Tabok, and the Fairies” ran for a number of years and ended epicly (with two epilogue sessions).  My four 3E campaigns rose and fell in a grand fashion and after each of those I was not heavy in my soul.  What was different about this campaign?

I don’t know what makes this campaign’s end different.  What I do know is that the repercussions from this campaign will echo through many of my games to come.  Castle Timeless, the Quan, and Spellguard are going to be sites to which PCs will adventure.  Aktara will show up as the “Only Tiefling in Arkosia.”  Surana is the Chronarch, she will play the role of Nimsûl and guide PCs to Castle Timeless.  Ghul is a Prince of Hell (or a lich or a Spellscarred Savant) and will surely reappear as gadfly or villain.  Belvar and Feldspar are both dragons and I love throwing in dragons.  The Giants in the Earth will provide hooks and stories for years to come.

Maybe the heaviness at this particular ending comes from what is going on outside game.  One friend is moving away, but will be back for his wedding.  One friend is looking to buy a house with his S.O.  One friend is dealing with a a great and profound grief.  My daughter will be a mother in five months.  Also, this is my last 4E game; from this point forward all games are going to be DnD Next playtest rules.  Are extra-game events making this ending more profound?

I hate leaving this post on a hanging note, but I don’t have any answers.  If any of you out there do, please offer me some ideas.  Until next time, GAME ON!

GM’s Day 2014

On March 4, 2008 CE, E. Gary Gygax, one of  cofounders Dungeons and Dragons passed away.  In the years since his passing, the day of his death has become known as GM’s Day or Game Master’s Day.  (I may be incorrect on the origins of GM’s Day.)  Many gamers choose to run special or retro-style games in Gary’s honor.  Game outlets often offer special deals.  I’m going to post about my Big 4E game and plan on starting a DnD Next game, tonight, with my wife and younger daughter.

The “Giants in the Earth” game went off well.  We had to cut in the middle and plan on finishing it on Saturday, March 16, 20014.  The two groups blended smoothly.  I gave the party a glimpse of the Qalibar and its “black hole sun.”  Qalibar is remains of a worlds that were devastated by the Paradox Wars.  (I lifted both Qalibar and the Partadox Wars from game I read, but do not own.  I’d like to find this game and buy it, but my Google-Fu is very poor.)

They encountered Linden, Mistress of Time at the Centre of Time.  They declined her offer to help them navigate the Infinite Paths that lead off from the Centre of Time and used their own powers to get where they needed to go and do what they needed to do.  I got to show them the remains of Spellguard, as it hurtled backwards through Time and the Elemental Chaos – the Body Luminous.  From there, they retrieved the Ivory Pine of Sestus, after fighting past a pack of white slaadi and a lone black slaad.

They used the Infinite Paths to collect the Seed of the Dreaming Tree and they chose to not awaken the rust dragon, sleeping in the hollow interior of the tree.

They returned to the Centre of Time to make their way to Galen’s Tomb hidden beneath Sceptre Tower in Spellguard.  There, they fought two Galens.  One was corporeal, while the other was an insubstantial phane.  During their fight, the dragon Dhivanara appeared and cried for help.  She was laying her, now hatching egg, and being attacked by Time Killers (Linden’s Temporal Assassins).  The PCs prevailed and Chonepsis was born, all three of him.  One time-jumped to the Past.  A second one jumped to the Future, leaving a third one to introduce himself as Chronepsis and ask for a gate key of 100 platinum coins to use to pass through the Living Gate.

While Chronepsis was returning to his lair, E3 Plus painted the lintel of Galen’s Tomb with his blood and went to Castle Timeless.  There they found their way to the Key to Time and retrieved their ship, Enterprise, and collected the Holly-Oak of Melikki from Oseric Magnis of Laurant.  After all the trees were collected, Bollenboch, the figurehead and dragon bonded with the Enterprise took the crew to Occiptus and collected Eldwar’s consort, Iomaudra.  Once the “team” was complete, Bollenboch plane shifted to the Inner World.

Game Paused.

It went well.  Fights were long and I got bored on occasion, but the players were on the top of their game and I could not have asked for a better or more attentive group.  I’m hoping the final encounters will be as engaging and rewarding.

Until next time, Game On!

Beginnings and Endings

On Wednesday, February 26 in the Year of Our Lord 2014

Happy Fiftieth Birthday to Me!

When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, on that rainy, Sunday afternoon in March (which I’ve referenced so many times already) so many years ago, I never imagined that I’d end up with a library of 132 (if I counted correctly) hardcover books, numerous softcover books, hundreds of pre-packaged adventures, and reams of hand-drawn or photocopied maps.  I, also, never imagined that I would be still playing this game 35 or 34 years later.  It has been amazing.

I’ve traveled a long way, since those early days.  Rilmorn has been named and mapped.  I’ve had friends craft maps for me (Special Shout Out to Thom Thetford and John Hesselberg!).  The solar system in which it resides is defined in broad strokes.  TSR is gone.  Tens of thousands of words have been written about its history.  I have written blog posts as a traveler in Ryllmorrin.  Wizards of the Coast are set to release the fifth edition (DnD Next) this summer.  I’ve ran games in Rilmorn in at least fourteen cities in three states for an uncounted number of people.  I’ve a blog about gaming and designing Rillmorinn.  So far, I’ve had a series of world-spanning wars and two cataclysms (The Great Cataclysm and The Great War) to account for edition changes; this coming Saturday, I’ll be wrapping up the campaign that is paving the way from 4E to DnD Next, as part of my 50th birthday party.  It has been a long path, but I’m glad I traveled it. (2015.04.16)

Saturday, March 1, 2014 around 1 Post Meridian, Eastern Standard Time, we will begin the last game in my Giants in the Earth campaign.  The players will be trying to prevent three super computers from opening portals to the Far Realm and thereby destroying the world.  They are also going to have to save the dragon Dhivanara of the Purple Sands, as she gives birth.  All of this is tied up with the restoration of Castle Timeless and the Quan.

Way back in the 80s, I gave two friends of mine the opportunity to choose and define two parts of Rilmorn.  Mike and Thom chose to fill out the Seven Races of Marn and to give parameters to Inner World of Rylmorn.   Rillmorn is shaped like Skartaris with openings at both poles.  Three colonization crafts (that bore humans from other Earths which ultimately seeded humanity on Rilmorin) are crashed on the inner surface of the world.

Each of those ancient crafts (now, mostly buried and brutally scavenged) was controlled by a super computer.  Colossus, Goliath, and Titan still exist and are active.  Their AIs warped by millennia of neglect and magic, these super computers seek First and Final Theorems and in their despair are attempting to open gates to realms beyond mortal comprehension.

E3 and their allies cannot use standard adventurer logic and “Kill the Giants in the Earth.”  Destroying the super computers will not stop the Far Realm from ripping into the universe; the millennia of spells cast by the Giants themselves have already cracked the fabric of reality.  E3 Plus must “ground the giants” by planting magical/holy trees in the right spots.  After the trees are planted, they must be quickly aged, so the roots can intertwine with the system.  Once that has happened, each tree must be magically bound to the Quan – A mystical realm already restored by E3 member Feldspar von Quan.  All the while this is going on; yochlol demons and vile dragons will be attacking to stop the heroes, since they want reality to shatter.

Because I ran too subtle a plot, my players missed that Iomaudra the Iron Dryad, whom they saved several games ago, has the power to magically increase the age of a tree, when she sheds her blood upon it.  They may need to get her from Occipitus to complete their quest.

In addition to everything else, Dhivanara will seek out Surana.  Dhivanara is about to give birth to Chronepsis, the Triple Dragon of Fate.  E3 encountered Chronepsis during their “World Tour,” when they took their magical, steam-powered airship on an extended trading mission.  Dhivanara is being attacked by servants of Linden the Mistress of the Centre of Time, who sees Chronepsis as a threat to her dominion over time.

E3 also has to gather the three saplings before they can begin the saving process.  They need the Holy-Oak of Meliki (the only surviving cutting of the Holy-Oak in on Laurant in the Rilmoré Cluster), the Dreaming Tree of the Sleeping Gods (the seed of Dreaming Tree grew out of a magical working and vanished hundreds of years ago), and the Ivory Pine (Feldspar has a seedling of the Ivory Pine, but they need a sapling; the dryad Amarantha has one, but E3 doesn’t know where she is).

This is to what my gaming has led me: an epic, convoluted final showdown with the fate of the world on the line.  Isn’t that the way of all D&D?  It is going to be a great party and I’m going to enjoy it all!

Then it’s on my way to DnD Next!

GAME ON!