A Year in Review

 

So, on 12 December 2015, my 2 year blogging anniversary came and went without as much as a whimper.  2015 has not been a good year for me, as far a gaming goes.  Ever since the ending of the “Giants in the Earth,” my attempts at running a campaign have gone poorly.

My “Shadowfell Road” campaign died a malingering death of extended inaction.  My “Pellham” campaign (with all the great modules that I combined) couldn’t continue, due to my players’ extra-game commitments.  My Zentlan campaign is not dead, but it stuck on an extended hiatus…I have hope that after the holidays that it will be back.  My blogging has been spotty, at best.  I haven’t finished the corrections for my StatBonus.com submission.  I haven’t completed my review of Morgan Newquist’s story, The Blacksmith and the Ice Elves.  All in all, I haven’t gotten my game back.  Even my fiction writing has suffered.  All of this has been pinned on the backdrop of my friend Ed’s death.  He did not win his fight with cancer, but left this world with his pride and dignity intact.

I miss gaming.  I miss my friends, both those living and those beyond.  I miss my creative spark and I want better things to come.  With only five days left till Christmas, followed by a trip to visit family and friends in Mississippi, it is unlikely that I will post on my blog again this year.  I just wish I could feel better about this post and be more positive in this missive to my readers.  Alas, I cannot.  May the year’s end find you, my readers in better light.

I am struggling, but I haven’t given up.  Please dear readers and friends, Game On, until we meet again.

 

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A is for Aries

As I have mentioned before, I think that I originally named the months of the Rimoric Calendar after the twelve signs of Western Astrology, so that the month names were both familiar and exotic.  Whether that is true or not is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the idea that 1 Aries 1 Age of Silver is first date of recorded history for Rilmorin.  It represents the beginning of timekeeping in my games.

Timekeeping in a role playing game can be a thankless job.  How many days does it take to travel to the next dungeon?  How long will it take for the mage to make a magic item?  How many weeks are the PCs sidelined, because they are trapped in snowed-in village?  Does it really matter when the dragon laid it eggs?  Since RPGing is a game of imagination, why even worry about keeping track of the days, weeks, and years.  Gary Gygax, in the 1E DMG (PP 37-8), explains the importance of keeping time in a campaign and offers up a system for doing so.  I do not necessarily agree with all of Mr. Gygax’s ideas on how to keep time flowing in a campaign, but I do agree with him that if you are running a campaign, then you need to have a system in place to keep track of time.

Wandering through the corridors of my memory, I have come to this conclusion: I may have begun playing D&D and running games in 1979, but I did not start running a campaign until I was running a regular game at the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church parsonage with Andy Cotten, Brad Corner, Rick Harris, Russell Badders, and Thom Thetford.  I had other gaming groups and they had serial and connected adventures, but it was not until Thom wrote down a timeline of one of our game sessions and used the actual dates on the Gregorian calendar that I named the months and started keeping timelines, chronologies, and histories for my games.  Oh, how things have grown since then.

1 Aries, the Vernal Equinox, is the beginning of each year according to the learned on the continent of Moytonia.  It is the time when the old is put away and the new is presented for all the world to see.  It is also the time of renewal and growth.  If one is not putting away the old, then one must take the old and reinvigorate it; the month of Aries represents that process.  I feel this idea is symbolic of what is happening in and on Rilmoryn.  I have two newborn campaigns in play right now, Pellham and Zentlan.  Neither of them will use the Calendar System of Moytonia, so old things must be put away.  Yet, both of them will see the same skies and stars and will be subject to the same celestial forces, so the old must be renewed.

By Western Astrological count, in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, today is the 12th day of Aries.  The Vernal Equinox has come and gone and the next full moon is Saturday, April 4, 2015, thus the festival of Easter is only 3 days away, all times and ideas of rebirth and renewal.  Things are changing in the world in which I live.  My granddaughters are growing.  I am seeking more money and better hours for my employment.  I’ve got lots of work to do in my games and I need to work on my fiction and my reviews.  So, I ask my readers and myself in what ways will you and I renew the worlds and games in which we live and play?

Game On!

Zentlan Part Two (or What Dreams May Come)

I have long “dreamt” of running a campaign that uses dreams as its core.  I ran a short playtest game with James and Christina wherein I attempted to set up dream campaign, but circumstances prevented us from continuing it.  A may have been setting up a “dream campaign” with Thom and Christina, when I was devising the Skype Campaign, but I was more focused on elementals and lost memories when I was working on that one.  Now, I try again.  Here are some the persons, places, and things that the PCs may encounter.

Doresh, Lord of the Fading Dream (Ebberon Campaign Guide PP 143-4), is my main villain all three of my PCs have a reason to end him.  Christina’s druid Malowyn Marshroot wants to stop him from expanding Shae Lorlyndra by dissolving the barriers between Reality (the Mundane World, the Shadowfell, and the Fey Realm) and Dreaming (any number of Dream realms that exist across the multiverse).  Clint’s warlock Kathar is under the commands of his balor patron Errtu to keep a library of books out of Doresh’s hands.  Spencer’s ranger Desmoxan escaped from Shae Lorlyndra and Doresh after being held as a slave for “a hundred years,” so he plans on revenge.  All three have a reason to fight Doresh, but they’ve got a long way to go before they can bring the fight to him.

The Isle of Celestia is the dream realm of the Isle of Argothus (The Campaign Book Volume One Fantasy PP 11-6).  Argothi and Celestia first appeared in my Namori campaign.  The Isle of Celestia was “colonized” by five High Wizards from another reality who sought to save their race from a hungry elder god.  The High Wizards did so by weaving their surviving peoples’ souls into magical garments and fled to a distant reality.  After they crafted themselves a sanctuary, the five High Wizards entered into an enchanted sleep, became the “Dreamers,” and “built” the dream realm of Celstia.  The Dreamers planned on giving their people an eternity of happiness within their dream realm.  I didn’t happen and the PCs came to defeat Nevil-Kethis, the elder god, and save their own world in the process.  In the course of the story, two the Dreamers were killed, but not all the souls in their magic robes were slain by Nevil-Kethis.  A PC, Veska – a human wizard reincarnated as a dryad, became a “Dreamer” these tainted souls as her people.  Veska, the Staff of the Five Elements, the Keep on the Borderlands, and other dream related artifacts and relics from Celestia have seen appeared in my Rhylmori campaign, my Sanderzani campaign, my Spellguard campaign, and my playtest one-offs.  It will be fun to see what happens if the Zentlan PCs travel Celestia and encounter Veska and the others who have affected the Dreamers’ Isle.  (Just a side note: Veska may be making an appearance in my Pellham campaign.)

The PCs in my Rhilmori got to encounter multiple dream realms and artifacts: the Isle of Celestia, Tholl’s Realm (Citybook IV: On the Road PP 53-8), and Silkies (The Dragon: Vol. V, No. 3, “Dragon’s Bestiary” PP 57-8) from the City of Glass (The Vortex of Madness and other planar perils PP 65-96) using Dream Magic (Dragon Magazine: Vol. XX, no. 4 “In Dreams” PP 10-7).  I could easily lift any of those from games past and update them for Zentlan.

The Divlos campaign used the dream realm of Sommonus, which I adapted from a friend’s copy of Chaosium’s H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands to fit my desert-style campaign.  I don’t see this one as having much use in the Zentlan setting, but I may find a use for it.

Io-Vol the Dreamwrath Dragon appeared in my Spellguard campaign.  She is a dragon that can only appear when a “dragon of her blood” sleeps.  Io-Vol is a great potential villain in the Zentlan campaign.

A Nightmare Collector (Denizens of Avadnu PP 117-8) is a construct designed to catch nightmares from a local area providing the inhabitants with a peaceful sleep.  The magic used in the construction of the nightmre collector and the collected nightmares give the nightmare collector the semblance of life and can make it a threat.  I’ve thought up, but never used, a couple of ideas using nightmare collectors.  They could easily be pulled into Zentlan.

White Wolf’s Scarred Lands setting included dream monsters and a demigod of dreams.  I may steal and adapt these for this campaign.

It appears that I have plenty of Dreams from my collection of resources.  Now, I just need to decide which ones to use first.  Do you any of you, my dear readers, have any dream monsters or settings that just call to you?  What fears would you have about running a “dream” campaign?

Game on!

Zentlan (or Gregory Builds Another Campaign Setting)

It has occurred to me that I write about devising campaign settings more than any other topic.  There are two probable reasons for campaign creation to be my favored writing material: 1) It is easier to write about than other parts of the game or 2) It is a part of D&D I enjoy more than other parts.  I don’t know the answer, but I do recognize that in other games (video, tabletop rpgs, etc.), I am the builder personality.  I like to create things that will last and, as a side note, Players in my games have noted that I often focus game play on Players that are working in builder mode when in Rylmoran.  Thus, once again into the Breach of Creation, I go.

One of the great things about GMing for 30+ years is that I have lots of material for building settings.  I have collected thousands of pages of published adventures, modules, campaign settings, and game systems.  I have tens of thousands of hours of actually game play and in-game creation from which to draw.  I am using both of these resources in crating Zentlan.  Different continents on Rylmoran have different environmental effects and sometimes even different “magic levels” or arcane phenomena or prohibitions and beacuse of that I can make use of my resources and create very different spaces all on the same world.  So, with this in mind, I now turn to Zentlan.

In the late 1980s, a group of PCs ended up in an unnamed city on an unnamed island had to deal with the Zentlar, the local population whose law enforcement used men with crystal wands that summoned acid rain and women who used crystal to track criminal offenders.  I have no recollection or record of what the PCs were doing there or how they escaped, but I do know that that city and those people stayed in my mind and when Thom, Christina, and I decided to try a long distance Skype game, the Zentlar finally found a place to settle: Zentlan.  The unnamed city became Dhavanarra AKA Zen Port and was placed on a small island just north of Zentland.  Other Zentlar cities would be found on the mainland.

So, Thom drew out the continental outline and I began to fill it in.  I had recently picked up the book Primal Power and in it was a section on “savage” regions of the world that could be homelands for primal characters (4E druids, shamans, wardens, etc.).  I decided to place all of those areas in Zentlan.  Zentlan was to be a “hotbed” elemental activity and origin site of the genasi, elemental humanoids.

We had a neat environment, but we needed it be populated.  I had already placed the Zentlar on Zentland and I know villages and tribes of genasi lived in the elemental biomes, but I wanted more.  Thus, I added the A’Thara.  The A’Thara are an ethnic group of people of human and diavlin ancestry (See the Seven Races of Marn).  The A’Thara fled Divlos during the Wars of the Sorcerer Monarchs and built a thriving empire on Zentlan.  An empire that fell after repeated conflicts with the Zentlar; only loosely allied cities remain.

Now, it came time to place cities on the map.  I had decided that the Zentlar are psionic based society that shapes the environment to fit their circular cites and that sounded like the Reidrans and Kalashtar from Ebberon to me, thus I began pilfering names from that section of the Ebberon Campaign Guide.  The A’Thara cities would be less uniform names and I had a great resource to use for the campaign base, Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel.  I picked up Punjar: The Tarnished Jewel at Free RPG day in 2008 and had never had a chance to use it.  With that final addition the basic population centers were in place, though there are still unnamed cities marked on the map.

I had old cites, fallen empires, elemental biomes, and psionic societies, what else did I need or want.  I needed a villain.  I wanted something weird.  I filled both desires with two Feyspires right out of Ebberon: Taer Syraen: the Winter Citadel and Taer Lian Doresh: the Fortress of Fading Dreams.  Taer Syraen got dropped whole cloth from the Ebberon Campaign Guide to the center of the Frostfell, while Taer Lian Doresh got renamed Shae Lorlyndra and placed in the Wrathwood.  I finished off my need for the weird by adding an even older fallen empire: the Olman from Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan to the mix and dropping one of the most intriguing features (at least to me) of the old Greyhawk Gazetteer, Nyr Dyv – Lake of Unknown Depths onto the Zentlan canvas.

All of this was done for the aborted Skype campaign, but I grabbed it all and decided to use it for Christina, Clint, and Spencer.  They provided me with a half-elf druid, a dragonborn warlock, and a tiefling ranger.  We developed some background for each of them and I dropped them in media res into the conflict with Lord Doresh.  Thus is overly long explanation of how I crafted my campaign setting of Zentlan.

Until we meet again, Game On!