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!

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Dragons, Dragons, and More Dragons (or “A Big, Boring List About Gregory’s Obsession”)

I love dragons.  I don’t remember when I first discovered dragons and my love for them, but I do love them.  It may have been the summer I read the Science Fiction Book Club Edition of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.  It may have been when I discovered, thanks to Suzanne White’s book Chinese Astrology, that I was born in the Year of the Dragon.  It may have been when I got my hands on copy of the 1977, 1978 edition of the Monster Manual.  Whenever it was, that love led me into placing a lot of dragons in my games.

Back in the Before Time, when Rilmorn was still being born, I gamed with a group of people that had multiple DMs.  While many of us took turns running games, each of us only played a single character.  Because each of saw things differently, it like slipping from world to world each game.  I was the first one to drop a a dragon in to the game and it was dead before the PCs found it.  It was a brass dragonskin that had magically inscribed names on it.  It was found in Mythgold and I’m fairly certain I stole that idea from B1In Search of the Unknown.  I don’t recall the first living dragon that I pitted against the PCs, but I suspect it was a green, given the Green Dragon Inn and the back story that I layered in.  It was during this period of my gaming career that Gregor the Gaunt (my, oh so creatively named, character) got his bronze dragon, Zuth, and became Gregor O’Dragon.  Gregor and Donalis rescued Zuth from the abandoned city of Wondercliff.  This period was a good time to encounter dragons and attempt to kill them. (2014.01.14)

After the other DMs decided to quit gaming or just sit on the other side of the screen, I became THE DM and truly began running games in the still unnamed world that would be called Rilmorn.  I put lots of dragons in my games during this time.  I used the five chromatic dragons to the best of their abilities.  I lifted the ice dragon from Pegasus Magazine and freaked out few players.  I dropped dragonettes in, as companions and familiars to PCs and NPCs.  Dragon Magazine issue 50 gave me “True Dragons;” it was a great article and gave me plenty of good ideas.  The Fiend Folio came out and I found oriental dragons.  I was very happy to drop the god Anu and the three-headed dragon, Dahak into my world, after I found them in the “Babylonian Pantheon” in Deities and Demigods.  The Monster Manual II gave me a couple new favorites, the mist and shadow dragons.  I crafted the Chalice of Dragons during this time; if a being bleed into the cup and then focused his or her will on it, a small dragon “familiar” would form out of the blood…the user had to randomly roll for which dragon type he or she got.  This time was notable for the sheer variety of dragons, it was fun. (2014.01.14)

My gaming group split up after several years of gaming.  We graduated high school and such.  About this time, Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Vancleave, MS got a new minister, Andy Cotten.  The parsonage became the place to game and it was during this time that Rilmorn was named and I started writing Rilmorn’s history.  I do not know where I lifted the idea of naming the Ages of History, but I liked the idea and named the era in which I was running games the “Age of Dragons.”  There were dragons in this era of gaming, but only one stands out.  It was the “woolly dragon,” from the cover of Dragon Magazine issue 81.  It was a good time for gaming, but a poor poor time for dragons. (2014.01.14)

My college days were days of dragons.  I got a copy of Dragons by Cory Glaberson.  Gem dragons and the missing color wheel (orange, purple, and yellow) dragons saw heavy play.  Gareth Eybender, an elven ranger ran by Mike Magee, ate the silver fruit of the Tree of Dianides and became silver dragon.  The Sept of the Dragon began collecting artifacts and other treasures to give in worship to or to control of various dragons.  The Dragon War began and every third or fourth game the PCs were faced with another dragon to battle.  The characters carried the battle to Kardon and its partdragon overlord and with his death hunted down his liege Babylon.  When the War of Dragons ended the political and parts of the physical landscape of Moytonia (the main continent of my gaming world) were completely reshaped.  Several more dragons were appeared before the end of the age: Chronepsis – Dragon of Fate, Dhivanara of the Purple Sands, and Tel-Mordin the Feared being three of the more important.  Tel-Mordin’s death marked the end the Age of Dragons and the beginning of the Age of Empire.

During my 3E days, I only remember the appearance of one dragon, Gareth Eybender, and he only appeared in his elf form.  3E dragons were meh to me.

I spent some time thinking on my 3E games and remembered that I had a pyroclastic dragon that the party defeated and once the dragon was dead, Hassiem (Matt Wagner’s character) bathed in its blood getting an extreme Natural Armor Class.  It was enjoyable. (2014.06.18)

 4E dragons in, probable, order of appearance

  • Ramala: green dragon – daughter of Rahab and Kitiara, wounded by her brother Sargon, finished off by the adventurers Surana and Aktara
  • Kitiara: green dragon – blue dragonborn that ate of the Tree of Dianides, grandmother of Kharus, a blue dragonborn, and grandmother-in-law of Suarana (played by Christina Guldensupp), a bronze dragonborn
  • Vanik: orium (red steel) dragon – poses as a brown dragonborn prince
  • Gareth Eybender: silver dragon from the Age of Dragons
  • Bolenbach: “Ship Dragon” – sea dragon slain by Gareth Eybender and Alkin du Fey, who used body to build a ship.  Ages later, Bollenbach was the figurehead for E3’s flying steamship, the Enterprise, as they continued to add magical improvements, Bollenboch returned to life.
  • Menethesis: argentyl (star silver) dragon – prophet who believed the adventurers known as E3 were a threat to the world, killed by E3
  • Io-Vol: dreamwrath dragon – bound to the artifact known as the Flask of Dragons
  • Feldspar (played by Matt Wagner): silver dragon – shifter, who under the influence of the Blood of Io from the Flask of Dragons, ate Menethesis’ heart and transformed into a silver dragon; lost his dragon form through a faery “blessing,” but regained it after eating of the fruit of Dianides
  • Paracelsus: purple dragon – oldest living child of Io-Vol-First of the Dreamwrath Dragons, master psion, and crafter of a clan of purple dragonspawn; found trapped in a mirror of life trapping and freed by Feldspar under the possession of Io-Val.
  • Esaerian: steel dragon – poses as a human, captain of the Enterprise, Bollenbach’s mate
  • Chronepsis: Triple Dragon of Fate – Stopped by to see what E3 was doing to the Kron, Chronepsis’ favorite humans
  • Unnamed: black “True Dragon” – Mutant black dragon from Dragon Isle, has two sets of wings and no forelimbs.
  • Belvar (played by James Burkett): silver dragon – Ate the Fruit of Dianides wrapped in a silver dragon scale to “assure” dragon form transformation. 
  • Dragotha: Undead Dragon – is involved in a Great Game with Gareth Eybender and the Lich Morgreth
  • Unnamed: firewrack dragon – guardian of Hellspawn Isle
  • Unnamed: seawrack dragon – guardian of Deathwater Isle
  • Unnamed: woodwrack dragon – guardian of Truewood Isle
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Colossus
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Goliath
  • Unnamed: vile dragon – defender of Titan

Wizards of the Coast has posted a History of Dragons in D&D on their DnD site.  I like it.

The Map of Dragons (2014.01.14)

Wyrnflight by Deby Fredericks is a blog about Dragons!  Go and Read it!  (2014.01.14)

 

“Don’t Borrow, Steal”

I’ve read every module, Dragon and Dungeon magazine and looked at every map that he owns and I expect to see everything I’ve read in his game someday.  I just don’t expect to recognize it.

Mike Magee

Circa 1987

Good gamemasters borrow.  Great gamemasters steal.

Unknown

The first quote is from a good friend of mine and a former and future player in the World of Rilmorn.  Mike expressed an unwritten rule of my world design.  Take pieces that you like from other works and put them into your own game.  By the time, Mike and I started gaming together, I had 5+ years GMing under my belt.  During those years, I had had players suddenly decide that their characters were far more interested in the “Lands Unknown” sections of my map than any planned adventure.  Well, when that happened I saw three choices: 1) Force my players to adhere to my story plan, 2) Pout, pack up, and go home, or 3) Improvise.  Having been “railroaded to  plots” or guilt-tripped into following other GMs’ adventures, the first  option was out.  Going home wasted the whole plan of having fun with my friends, so #2 was out.  Thus, I improvised.

Some times, improv comes easy.  Other times, the process stalls.  During those stalled processes, I would get my players to talk amongst themselves and I would grab a book, module, or magazine and start flipping pages.  As quick as I found something that caught my eye, I’d regain my players attention and off we’d go.  I’d keep as good notes as possible during the game, then later I’d add what I had used to Rilmorn.

Over time, I began to see things that were cool that others did and wanted those things in Rylmorin.  I’d already been borrowing other’s ideas, when I had to improvise.  Why couldn’t I just add what ever I liked to my game?

WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF and INTERNALLY CONSISTENT WORLD.  One of the major problems that all gamemasters have to face is the “Willing Suspension of Disbelief.”  For the period of game, people who live in a non-magical world must accept that their characters are in a world where magic happens and that they are part of that world.  To help players suspend their disbelief, GMs need to keep their worlds internally consistent.  If one designs a world with a particular theme or trait and, suddenly, drops something into that world that violates that theme or trait, then the players are going to be jarred out of their disbelief.  This led me to the second quote.

Borrowing something implies that you intend to return it and in relatively the same condition as it was before it was borrowed.  When it comes to Rilmorn,  I can’t just borrow things for my world.  A borrowed object stands out.  It is still sharp around the edges. When you steal something for a game, you plan on keeping it and you do what you need to do to make it a good fit.

When I began my BIG 4E game, I stole the Secpter Tower of Spellgard.  I changed the spelling and the location of the ruins to place them in Rilmorn.  I put a portal from Sigil to Spellguard, so my PCs could have a way to the ruins and for me to be able to add future adventure hooks.  I changed the halfling wererats to dwarven wererats, since there are so few halflings on Rilmorn.  I linked Spellgaurd to Castle Timeless (an extradimensional realm involving time and time travel).  Saharel became a temporally displaced chronasarian.  The undead below Sceptre Tower (changed spelling again) became “time-riven dead,” beings that were some how bond to the disaster known as the “Fall of the Castle.”  The Monks of the Precipice became guardians of a cave under their monastery that opened into a “Gulf of Time.”  Kuryon became a blue dragonborn from Sigil, who went back in time to found the Fortress State of Arkohsia (already introduced in a previous 4E game).  The main villain of the story was renamed Thalen and linked to Galen, a big villain from the end of one of my other campaigns.  Sister Chera became a disguised deva.  Etc.  I tied the adventure to my world.

If you like something and want it in your world, take it.  You need a powerful, busybody wizard to direct the PCs actions.  Take Elminster.  Rename him: Elfmiester.  Shave his beard and dress him in red robes.  Make him Master Librarian in the port city of Palanthus who likes to send adventurers out on his ship Firefly to explore dungeons hidden on nearby islands.  Take what you need and blend it into your world and it will work.  Game On!