Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

  Hope you all had a merry christmas and that you have a happy new year. I haven't posted much this year but rest assured that I'm here reading the posts that you have taken the time and trouble to write and share. So even though I may not be that vocal I would like you to know that I really appreciate it. It's nice to feel like part of a larger group and not just some oddball, goofing off on this game with the funny dice.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What's Your Campaign's Appendix N?

  I've been reading through http://www.tor.com/features/series/advanced-readings-in-dungeons--dragons lately and thinking about what has most influenced my own world building and design. Even better, let's make it a top ten...

Micheal Moorcock
  Way back when I was in school there used to be a second hand book stall that I used to check out before hitting the classroom. It was here that I first picked up most of the Eternal Champion paperbacks. The crazy psychedelic covers! How could I not pick them up? Liked Elric but Hawkmoon and Von Bek really blew me away. Read everything I could get my hands on; Dancers at the End of Time (meh), The Cornelius Quartet (genius), Second Ether, the short story collections (Behold the Man and The Black Corridor are wonderful), New Worlds. Moorcock's writing just seemed to click with me. I never liked all that "Ye Merrie Olde London Town" stuff, these books were a lot more current. They didn't hark back to a mythical past or try to ape some ancient epic and the characters weren't just two dimensional archetypes. Still love 'em.

  Back when I first started playing D&D there just wasn't that much fantasy stuff around. You had to seek it out, hunting through second-hand bookstores and reading every word in that month's White Dwarf and Imagine magazines to try and find stuff you liked. Conan bestrode the world like he owned it. The first and best film had just come out and the Sphere paperback series with the Frank Frazetta covers were a must have. What tales! Red Nails, Queen of the Black Coast, The Frost Giant's Daughter. This was a world made large, with characters to fit. Awesome.

Star Wars
  What do you mean it's not fantasy? It's got sword fights, wizards and a beautiful princess! I went to the cinema to see this when I was seven years old and I adored it. I couldn't afford the toys so I made the spaceships out of lego and treasured the occasional copy of the comic that I could get hold of. Science fiction films at the time were all low budget dystopian visions so Star Wars was a breath of fresh air. And it looked great (still does). As mainstream as you could possibly get but still cool. Iconic.

The Princess Bride
  The film? It's a classic and well loved for good reason but I'm talking about the book. What do you mean you've never read it? You've never heard of the ZOO OF DEATH! You don't know about the secret missing scene you have to write off for or the previous most beautiful women in the land? Or Inigo Montoya's years in the wilderness training to become the greatest swordsman in the world? Come on, it's been in print since 1973! What are you waiting for?

Titus Groan / Gormenghast
  I love these books. Bookends of an epic tale of two men, one a scullery boy who rises above his station and one the heir to the halls of Gormenghast with shades of Saki and Charles Dickens, the grotesque and the comic. A totally unique atmosphere that is impossible to imitate and so there it stands, alone and insular, in it's own time and space. When I'm looking for a touch of the gothic this is what I reach for. Mervyn Peake could write like no-one else.

  Folk tale, Arthurian legend and celtic myth all weave seamlessly in this trilogy by Jack Vance of Dying Earth and Vancian magic fame. It's a masterpiece of storytelling and I love to just pick it up and read random chunks of it. Strange, magical and with plenty of heart, it's a fairy tale for grown ups and a blueprint for how to make a vibrant, living fantasy.

Excaliber / The Once and Future King
  Cue Carmina Burana! Excaliber overshadows all other filmed versions of Arthurian legend like a colossus. Nicol Williamson's Merlin is definitive and the mix of music and visuals is breathtaking. T.H. White's Once and Future King is utterly tragic as Arthur turns from the innocence and potential of youth into a troubled king whose lands turn to ruin and whose doom is unavoidable. A raging diatribe against war full of the beauty of the natural world.

The Water Margin
  Monkey? No way, it's The Water Margin for me every time. Lin Chung leading the nine dozen from Mount Liang against the evil bureaucrats of the Song Dynasty. Martial arts adventure with great characters, stories and the odd bit of philosophy thrown in for good measure. It was also totally unlike anything else on British telly at the time.

Fantastic People / Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were
  Two anthologies of fantasy art with accompanying text by Allan Scott and Micheal Scott Rohan for FP and Micheal Page and Robert Ingpen for the Encyclopedia. These books are a lot better than they really needed to be. The art is wonderful and the entries are full of great little details and quirks. I've spent many a happy afternoon browsing through these books letting the imagery tumble around in my head. Full of wit and invention and well worth seeking out.

City of Saints and Madmen
  I'm a sucker for the weird stuff and this book has it in spades. It has more ideas than most authors have in their entire careers. The city of Ambergris is built over an underground settlement of mushroom people (myconids?), includes humanoid squid (mind flayers?) a dwarf and semi-intelligent aquatic life and is teeming with detail. The stories are really great, full of word play and stylistic tricks and but never to the detriment of the flow of the story.

Damn, I've missed out Harry Harryhausen, Terry Gilliam, Viriconium, Book of the New Sun, Thieves' World, 2000ad (ABC Warriors, Slaine, Nemesis the Warlock and Zenith), Brotherhood of the Wolf, Lankhmar, Alan Garner, E.R. Eddison, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman and Final Fantasy VII!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Twenty Quick Questions for Your Campaign Setting

I thought this was a cool idea so here goes...


What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
Pick a god you like the sound of and get two domain powers and a favoured weapon.
Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
Pick up anything worth 800gp or less in the small towns, 200gp or less in the villages. More expensive items require a trip to the capital.
Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Try Silverhaven. Failing that then a voyage across the sea to the mighty trade city of Soull.
Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Yaztromo the Sorcerer lives in a tower in the Dirkwood.
Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Lord Calunghetta, Guardian of Sentinal Hill, Liberator of Mokyll and Slayer of the Giant Nosnra.
Who is the richest person in the land?
Lech Bronislaw, a clever and capable merchant.
Where can we go to get some magical healing?
If Sormav, priestess of Hecate cannot help you then turn to the Wind Dancers or the Temple of Abarta in Tydd Gott.
Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Sormav can treat poison and disease, curses can be lifted in Tydd Gote. Anything worse than that and you're in trouble!
Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Afraid not. The mysteries of the arcane are closely guarded secrets.
Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
You can try to find one at any large settlement. BX rules apply when hiring.
Where can I hire mercenaries?
Wherever there is conflict.
Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Using magic in public will cause fear and alarm from the common folk, otherwise don't do anything that you can't bribe your way out of. Oh, and be careful who you hurt, you never know who they're friends with.
Which way to the nearest tavern?
Just follow your nose.
What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
The Svartalfar are a constant menace in the White River Plains, and in the hills of the Korm Penninsula the dead are massing. 
Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
The Dragon Council in Wintershiven has designs on all of the Northern Free States. Rebels in Glotspur fight a guerrilla war against the Krakenheim tyranny. Far to the west the Holy Aerisian Empire tears itself apart in a three sided civil war. All is strife.
How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Try your arm at the Temple of Modi in Tydd Gott. If you survive then fame and gold can be earned in the arenas of the Pomeraine.
Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Cilhadrai agitators seek to halt expansion of the Free States into the surrounding wilderness. Others with less obvious agendas watch and scheme from the shadows.
What is there to eat around here?
Fish and game, mainly. The fare might not be very sophisticated but it is hearty and warming.
Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
The Hammer and Ring of Alberich the Damned are said to lie beneath the ancient halls of Mokyll. 
Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Far from here, thank the gods!

Monday, 29 July 2013

What I Learnt from Dungeon World

Skills (Updated)

                                                                                   Party Level          Easy          Moderate          Hard
Easy                       DC 5                                                  1-2                 15                20                  25
Average                 DC 10                                                 3-4                 18                22                  26
Tough                    DC 15                                                 5-6                 20                24                  28
Challenging             DC 20                                                7-8                 22                26                  30
Formidable             DC 25                                                9-10               23                27                  31
Heroic                    DC 30                                               11-12              25                29                  33
Nearly Impossible   DC 40                                               13-14              27                31                  35
                                                                                        15-16              28                32                  36
                                                                                        17-18              29                33                  37
                                                                                        19-20              30                34                  38

When using a skill and there is an element of risk involved in failing roll above the DC for success. If you roll half the DC or lower you fail and take some sort of penalty but gain 1/20 Xp needed to gain the next level (eg 100 Xp at 1st Level, 250 Xp at 2nd, etc). Between these two figures the character succeeds at a penalty to themselves but without the Xp bonus. Penalties can include loss of equipment, 1d6 damage, a conditional modifier such as exhausted, staggered or stunned; or whatever else seems appropriate to the GM.

I've started a Pinterest board with all the pics that inspire me whenever I get round to writing stuff. Will keep updating it as and when...

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A Timeline of the Northern Free States

- 3250  Dwarven War against the Giants
- 2650  Korm Basin sinks into the sea
- 1750  The clan of Mokyll builds the halls that bear his name
- 850    Dwarven kingdom of Mokyll reaches it's height
- 250    Dwarves war against the Svartalfar
- 160    Alberich forges magic in the deep
- 80      Kingdom of Mokyll turns to greed and in-fighting
  10      Alberich falls in civil war but curses the halls with destruction
  90      Dwarves descend into the depths and are lost
  140    Wintershiven founded on the banks of the Korm Basin
  240    The Halls of Mokyll are sealed by the last of the dwarves
  300    Dwarven treasures are raided and sold by Wintershiven merchants, making the town rich
  400    Durgabel separates itself from the rising Kingdom of Wintershiven
  480    Priesthood of Helios run Wintershiven as a theocracy
  530    The Kingdom of Wintershiven expands it's borders eastwards toward the White River
  610    Tuel horse-tribes fight back against Wintershiven expansionism. Barons re-take power from the       church
  690    Plague sweeps up from the swamps of the south
  760    Silverhaven founded by Gabriella Sentinel
  823    Calunghetta repels the hill giant Nosnra
  825    Calunghetta becomes lord of Tydd Gote
  831    Flooding wrecks coasts and rivers, many lives are claimed by Njord
  835    Cilhadrai raiders are turned back to the sea
  840    Present day

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The World So Far...

Out of Hibernation

The other day I drew up a chart to better understand the relationships between the gods in my pantheon. After a bit of research I've managed to scrawl out the following:-

  The Elder Gods are Woden, Silvanus and Helios. Helios had a son who borrowed his chariot causing much destuction in the heavens until Woden struck him down with a thunderbolt, creating the Burning Lands. Hecate as a moon goddess respects Woden as god of the night sky, envies Myhriss her beauty, is the brother of Helios the sun and is the lover of Abarta. Abarta was the patron god of Tyche before she ascended to godhood as Nuada was to Woden, Modi to Istus and Lugh to Helios. Minerva sprang from the head of Woden and is the sister of Isis and the half-sister of Erythnul. Lugh is married to Myhriss, who had an affair with Erythnul before they were discovered by Helios. Isis married a mortal who was killed by Tiamat, mother of dragons. Horus, the son of Isis is dedicated to seeking vengeance. Demeter is an aspect of Isis who has developed into a god in her own right, as Aeris has developed out of Minerva. Skadi the land and Njord the sea were married until Njord slept with Demeter who gave birth to Idun. Idun was captured by Hel until Demeter bargained for her returned. Now Demeter travels to Hel's palace every winter to serve the queen of death. Skadi left Njord for his infidelity and married Uller, the son of Minerva, who keeps watch over the world in Demeter's absence. Vecna became a god through dark magics known only to him. He fears Hel will claim him to her dread realm. Taiia is a recent god brought into being by the magical schism that saved the Exiles. Istus has weaved her into the world, for good or ill.

Confused? You will be!