Maps, Maps, and More Maps (or Art or Artifact?)

So, I wrote a Live Journal post with nearly the same title in January of 2014 and bragged about my map of the continent of Moytonia.  I’ve made or was given multiple maps over the years.  I really enjoy maps.  As I mentioned a while ago, I wanted to build up my map collection (Item #2).  This campaign is giving me just that.  I’ve got 6 major cities and towns on the Bazarene Circuit to map out.  There is a monastery and a halfling village to work on.  If the PCs want to explore beyond the Bazarene Circuit, I have maps for Constantina, Barovia, and Neverwinter.  I am working on a map for Majipor.  This is a good time for maps and me.

I like maps that Players can make their own.  I like maps that have Player notes on them.  It gives the Players a sense of ownership of the campaign.  My first map was the map to Mythgold; you can see the marks the players made on it as they figured out how long it would take them to travel from the edge of civilization to Mythgold and where they should and should not camp.  My pre-GIMP versions of Moytonia had many marks put upon them by my Players.  Kingdoms were drawn in.  Islands named.  It made Rillmorn more than I could have done on my own.

I will use the map of Neverwinter that came with the campaign setting, but I will not be able to let my Players mark it up, because it more art than artifact.  I cannot reproduce the Neverwinter map and if my Players spill something on try to mark which house is the mage spy’s house and which house is the cleric spy’s house that map will be ruined.

In my newest campaign, I had originally planned on making a single copy of each map and show it to my Players, as needed.  I fully expected them to mark it and turn it into something that I could use in later games.  My wife convinced me to make multiple copies of the maps of Duvamil and of the larger area in which the game is set for each of my Players.  This lets each one of them mark his or her the way he or she wants.

So, here are the maps so far…

Northwest Moytonia – This map is a combination of a section of my big Moytonia map and a map I created for my Sanderzani Campaign.  I will be focusing on the towns and cities on the Bazarene Circuit, but I hope to make or steal maps for all the areas marked there.

Duvamil – Since I first ran the Sanderzani campaign in 2004 and 2005, I have had the town of Duvamil marked on multiple maps.  I have sent PCs to Duvamil multiple times, but I never had a map for it…until now.  Using GIMP, I took pieces from the maps of Red Larch from Princes of the Apocolypse, Brindol, Greenest from random image sites, and the Village of Orlane from N1 Against the Cult of Reptile God.  It has a patchwork quality to it and I am good with that.  Yes, there is a lot of blank space on the map.  The map only shows the largest of structures in Duvamil and none of those marked items have names.  I am bad at naming things and won’t give places names or, sometimes, even purposes until the PCs go looking for a specific person or place.

Heppra – This is my latest creation is.  It is two maps of Hamunaptra from Green Ronin’s Mythic Vistas series mixed with other elements using GIMP.  This one is being numbered, so I can give Christina a copy of the key, since Heppra is the home town of her Character, Shery-kem.  It is a work in progress.

Maps do not have to be perfect.  They have to be usable.  They have to be touchstones to the Reality in the Game.  These maps of mine are examples of that.  What do your maps look like?  Are the pristine or damaged?  Are they more art or more artifacts?

Until next time, Game On!

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!

With the Blood of Dragons

Dragonborn.  Half-dragons.  Draconians.  Cecrops.

This post was inspired by this Facebook thread.

I have long been fascinated by dragons and dragon/human mixes.  The image of Cecrops in Mythology by Edith Hamilton has stuck with me from the moment I saw it in Seventh Grade.  That image was the basis for “The Overlord,” a conquering despot who ruled over the City of Kardon for his liege, the seven-headed dragon Babylon.  Years before my players fought in the Dragon War (Yes, I had a dragon apocalypse, who hasn’t?), other PCs had to deal with Mandragora (pronounced MAN drag ore uh), which I based on an image from the third installment of “Dragonsword”, a secondary story in the back of The Warlord comic issue 54.  I crafted those on my own, but soon enough I was to discover other people’s versions of dragonmen.

Draconians are the redeeming feature of Dragonlance, which dropped on us the following evils: tinker gnomes, Raistlin, gully dwarves, the Knights of Solamnia, and kender, in order of greatest to least annoying.  I found the draconians fascinating.  They had cool powers and special effects when they died.  I happily yanked them into Rylmorn and used them as shock troops in the War of the Dragons (AKA the Dragon War).  I particularly enjoyed using aurak draconians to torment my players.  I was very happy when the Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons updated draconians for 4E .  Now, that Prince Vanik is restoring the Fortress State of Arkohsia and it’s already history that some draconians have pledged themselves to the service of Prince Vanik and defense of Arkohsia, I look forward to using them again.

Half-dragons…what can I really say.  They first appeared in Council of Wyrms setting for 2nd edition AD&D.  I was not impressed with the setting and really didn’t use much, if anyof it.  3E overused the idea of the half-dragon template.  I don’t think all dragons are interfertile with other living things.  Even if I accepted the idea that all dragons could interbreed with non-dragons, 3E just went too far with the concept.  I got really disgusted when I encountered a black dragon/tendriculos.  It’s a giant plant, people, a giant plant!  Next!

Even though I thought half dragons were overused in 3E, I did not let that stop me from creating a community of half-dragons in the Rilmoré Cluster campaign, my campaign set in a massive archipelago.  I got a great deal of personal amusement in crafting a monastery and surrounding community filled with half dragons.  One of my biggest personal jokes was a Zen pool that had six amber balls on its sandy bed.  If one was perceptive enough, one might notice that the balls had five-pointed stars on them.  The stars varied number from one to seven, missing only the four.  I’ve talked about running a campaign based around Arkohsia with all the PCs being dragon humanoids.  If I do run that campaign, the Monks of the Dragon may be an opposing group.

My wife is running a dragonborn, twin blade ranger in my present campaign.  She’s the one who is credited with starting Prince Vanik on his quest to restore the Fortress State.  Her character, Surana, traces her ancestry back to the children, guards, and servants of Zoë Dragonmaker and Alexsi Lungtai of Mythgold.  Surana’s ancestors were transformed into dragonborn by the use a powerful artifact, the Chalice of Dragons.  Surana’s mate, Kharus, is a blue dragonborn, whose ancestors born from the Black Egg.  There are small enclaves of chromatic dragonbborn in Sigil and Kharus is from the blue enclave.  The PCs have met the following dragonborn in the course of my 4E game: Sargon – black dragonborn dragon killer with a huge chip on his shoulder; Kitiara – blue dragonborn, owner of the tavern Wyrm’s Lair in Sigil and Kharus’ grandmother; Kharus – blue dragonborn, Surana’s mate and son of Sargon and the late Kahladnay; Prince Vanik – brown dragonborn from an unspecified and unnamed kingdom; Kuryon – blue dragonborn poet and Lawgiver of Ancient Arkhosia; and a couple unnamed red dragonborn purists who attacked Surana and Kharus because they were “mixing the colors.”  I’ve enjoyed the drgonborn in 4E.

If my plan for an Arkohsia campaign goes through, I look forward to the interactions between the half-dragon monks, the True Dragons of Dragon Isle, and the Scions of Arkohsia.  Will they find the Black Egg and the Chalice of Dragons?  Will they have to defend themselves against attacks by the True Dragons?  What will they learn from the Monks of the Dragon?  Until then, I shall Game On!

“Games Are Like Ogres…

They have layers,” to amend Shrek.  I believe a good game world is one that goes deeper the more the players dig.  Having said that, I don’t believe that one can build a layered world from the ground up, one has to game in a world to get layers.

Rilmorn started as a wilderness map leading from the country of Greyhawk” to the “Underground City of Lungold” and an unfinished dungeon map (which already had several ideas swiped from B1 – In Search of the Unknown.  I had certain ideas about what was what in my game.  “Murder Wood” had giant spiders; yes, I had read The Hobbit.  The Baldorions had leucrotta in them; thanks to an illustration in the Monster Manual.  Lungold was a city, so I was going to put in bathrooms, public baths, and a sewage system (a series of small tunnels with one foot cube-sized gelatinous cubes to clean up the waste).  I had no idea of scale, when I started my overland map.  I just knew I wanted it to take the PCs days to get to the dungeon.  I knew that there were inns in Olde England and Middle Earth, so I put in roads and inns with colorful animal names.  I saw such a name in the Dungeon Masters Guide, the “Green Griffin.”  I wanted the PCs to go by my road to Lungold, so the river was deep and dangerous to cross and a section of the map was labeled “quicksand.”  Even with all of that, it took several games to start layering in the details.

The first session in, my players asked why their characters couldn’t ride straight north to the dungeon.  At that moment, the valleys and hills through that area became so steep, they would extremely slow travel and the Old River Road was the quickest way to Lungold.  The second night on the road brought the characters to the Green Dragon Inn.  I decided on a whim that the innkeeper at the Green Dragon was a skinflint and overcharged his guests.  After that, the PCs chose to camp away from the Green Dragon, rather than pay the steep prices.  Some games later, the PCs met some dwarves heading to the Baldorions, as the PCs headed south from Lungold.  The dwarves complained to them about the awful service they got at the Green Dragon Inn.

Some games later, my players wanted to know why the inns had such “colorful” names and I said that each inn was built on a site where either a creature of that type was killed or a group of those animals had lived.  For a long time after that announcement, the PCs would see a hawk hunting and the hawk would be black.  The only type of dragon they knew existed, for many months of play, was the green, chlorine-breathing type; all related to the one who gave its life for the name of an inn.  (If I were still running this map and set up, I’d have the innkeeper be cursed to be as greedy as a dragon, because of the dying curse of the eponymous green dragon.  A new layer of which I just thought.)  Horse traders would offer them special deals on “yellow horses,” when the PCs needed new mounts.

Even later, the PCs would discover a dwarven mine in the Baldorians.  The leaders of the mines were the complaining dwarves from the Green Dragon.   Each of these things made the game world richer for the players.

When I ran the dungeon for a new group of players, I had changed the name to Mythgold, because I didn’t want to get sued for plagiarism, if I ever published my game.  When asked why the abandoned city was in such good shape, I came up with the idea of a self repairing dungeon.  The magic of the wizards restored every non-living thing to its proper place.  (My previous PCs had never stayed overnight in the dungeon, so the magic that restored things did not effect items removed from, then returned to Mythgold.)  This group of player characters was particularly vandalistic, so I had great fun describing the magically restored furniture and repaired food crates, as they were leaving the dungeon.  Later adventuring parties found many walls with perfectly mortared holes in them.  Holes, once graced with gems, thanks to that party of characters.

Every time I have run Mythgold, I’ve used things that I or my players created or did to make Mythgold richer.  The layers are deep and I can quickly answer most any question a player asks about the Underground City.  I have an overly detailed history of Mythgold.  My Dungeon Key is way too detailed for my own good.  Every game adds a new coat of paint to a world.  I try to use those layers to give Rilmorn a verisimilitude not found most games.  Not every campaign needs depth, but it helps to hold the suspension of disbelief, if one, at least. uses the layers created in previous games.  Until next time, Game On!