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!

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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!

C is for Coin

Adventures rush to loot the dragon’s bed, after the dragon is dead.  Heroes, they may be, but they all run toward the demon cult’s treasury.  Before they save the princess from her fate, they must, the fee, negotiate.  Why, because money is the grease that lubricates the gears of a civilization and it is part of the Players’ reward for their PCs succeeding. (2015.04.16) (2015.05.28)

In many ways, gold (also called gold pieces, g.p., GP, or gp) is simply a score card for D&D.  The more money the PCs have, the more “magic stuff” (magic armor, enchanted weapons, raise dead spells) they can afford.  David Noonan, in a D&D Insider podcast, once said that there was no real economy in a Dungeons and Dragons Game.  The silver pieces given to the NPC baker for a loaf of journey bread are not then given to the NPC miller, so that the NPC baker can get more flour.  This is true in any Player/GM encounter.  Coin only appears in a game when the PCs have it.  (I do not count treasure listed in monster/NPC write-ups to be “in play,” since their only purpose to tell the GM what to give the PCs, if they “win.”)  It is a counter and nothing more, but it doesn’t have to be... (2015.04.16) (2015.05.28)

Each version of D&D has had a monetary system that consisted of coins of various metals and denominations.  Each version of D&D has used the gold piece (gp) as the standard unit of measure for wealth, but the rates of exchange between coins have changed.  In 1E, there was the copper piece (c.p.) which was valued at 1/10 of a silver piece (s.p.) which was equal to 1/10 of an electrum piece (e.p.), which had a value of ½ of a gold piece (g.p.), which carried a value of 1/5 of a platinum piece (p.p.).  Thus (to lift the example from page 35 of the first edition of the Players Handbook):  “200 c.p. = 20 s.p. = 2 e.p. = 1 g.p. = 1/5 p.p.”  In 2E, the ratios between the coins remained the same, but the abbreviations for the coins changed to CP, SP, EP, GP, and PP.  Money in 3E was simplified.  10 cp was equal to 1 sp, 10 sp equaled 1 gp, and 10 gp was worth 1 pp.  4E numismatistics gave use a new currency: astral diamonds (ad) and changed the conversion ratio between gold and platinum.  1 pp was, then, equal to 100 gp, while an ad was equal to 10,000 gp.  4E, clearly, saw the PCs running around with LOTS spending cash.  5E has also had its hand in fiddling with the value of a gold piece.  Now, 100 cp = 10 sp = ½ ep = 1 gp = 1/10 pp.  Sweet mercy, this is a boring paragraph.

Despite the obvious snooze factor in the previous paragraphs, coinage does not have to be simply a scorecard or boring.  Coins do not appear ex nihilo, they are products of the civilizations and cultures that produce and use them.  They are artifacts that can be used to tell stories of a lost people or give PCs clues to possible dangers in the area where the coins were found.  Differing monetary systems between neighboring nations could offer Players roleplaying opportunities.  I have tried and will try again to put such devices to use in my games.

During my 1E days, Lewis Pulsipher, in Dragon #74, suggested changing from the sometimes arcane D&D gold standard to a decimal-based silver standard that dropped electrum coins and changed the size and weight of coins, so the number of coins went from 10 to pound to about 216+ to a pound.  I changed to a silver standard and decided that there were 100 coins to pound.  Mike Magee (Gareth Eybender’s Player and designer of Elethar) took this idea and created a currency system for the elven kingdom of Elethar.

Base currency: Pyramid (silver piece)

Coinage:  1 argentel Gareth = 10 platinum Castles = 100 gold Crowns = 1000 silver Pyramids = 10000 copper Tenthmids = 100000 steel Centimids (often referred to as “cents”)

 

Eletharian currency is noted throughout Rilmorn for its purity. Counterfeiting is a capital crime in the Kingdom, and Elethar’s Intelligence Service works diligently at home and abroad pursuing those who would forge or debase the kingdom’s currency

Robert Hegwood provided some images of coins used by the Empire of Xshathrapat.  I’m going use some of those images (slightly altered) in my Pellham campaign.  I don’t know if I will attempt a return to the silver standard, since my present players seem fairly attached the standard system, but I am going to start making coins from different countries unique and attempt to use those differences to improve the feel for each region and give more depth to my setting. (2015.04.16)

I am not the only one who works on making their world’s coinage more than a counter on a scorecard.  D. at Fluer de mal has a post about currency on his world here and here and here.

Do any of you, my good readers, make use of coins to spice up your games?

Game On!

Inner World

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, I will begin what should be the last session of my Giants in the Earth campaign.  It will take place in the Inner World of Rilmorn.  I’ve done very little design on the Inner World over the years.  Thom and Mike helped me set out the parameters of the Inner World: 1) it is a world set on the interior of the Rylmorn, 2) it has a single, brownish star at its center, and 3) it is more “science powered,” than “magic powered”.  Ken, as Shae’Fer, encountered the Asianesque, jade dragon Shou Lung, when Shae’Fer was stranded in the Inner World.  Ken would be the person most active in the Inner World.  He, as his character, took volunteers from his homeland and placed them in stasis, so that they could repopulate and restore the world, if there was ever a Worldwide Disaster.  Later, Shae’Fer would hide a bunch of lich-related artifacts in the brown dwarf star at the center of the world, in a failed attempt to keep them out of Evil’s hands.  Recently, I decided that three, ancient, colony ships from alternate Earths had crashed inside Rillmorrin.  Each ship was run by an intelligent super computer named after a giant from that Earth’s myth or history.  That is everything I’ve done on the design of the Inner World.

The Inner World of Rilmorn is inspired by Pellucidar from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Skartaris from Mike Grell.  It was to be a place seeded with ancient monsters and super science.  I never built such a place.  It has always been a hazy, unformed realm that I could reference in metaphor and allusion.

The Brown Dwarf reigns above the Giants in the Earth,” is probably my favorite quote dropped by a “mad prophet” in my games.

So, what do I have in place in the Inner World?

  • A brown dwarf microstar that illuminates the lands and oceans of a hollow world
  • A realm where science is more effective than magic
  • 3 ancient, super computers in the remains of their spacecraft
    • Colossus comes from an Earth where American English and Celtic Christianity are the language and faith of the majority of the populace
    • Goliath is from a world where the Akkadian Empire remained a world power and their faith is that of the Sumerian and Babylonian peoples
    • Titan knew a world wherein the Greeks dominated culture worldwide
  • An ancient language based on the percentage of survivors of the total number of colonists; created and shared by the 3 AIs – Orthoni is 60% English, 30% Greek, and 10% Akkadian
  • A magical/runic alphabet called Dymetri that when written precisely produces magical effects
  • Dinosaurs
  • Kularin (winged folk) in stasis
  • Dragons
  • Dragons corrupted by Far Realm energies

Having all of this still unmapped and uncodified has left me in a quandary.  Should I use Numenera as my Inner World setting?  I was going to say, “Yes, since it appeared, serendipitously, the day before my last game” but I got to thinking about so many other ways I can use the setting.  Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’ll have a plan by next Saturday.  Anybody got any suggestions?

Oh, by the way, this weekend 7-9 March 2014 is CoastCon XXXVII.

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!