Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A few basics...

Busy at work and home recently, but while cooking dinner, here's a little statement of what I play, what I have played, what I don't want to play, and possibly a bit about what I'm hoping to do with this blog...

So my interest in RPGs started when I joined a new, small country school aged 7.  They had a small library that contained the 1st Fighting Fantasy book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.  As the many comments in the link show, it was new, interesting, and opened up a new world.  I got the next few books, up to #7, Island of the Lizard King, through a school bookclub, and collected the odd one or two through my teenage years...

Then I got MERP for an early birthday - 12th or so... (Trying to find a good link to the right edition as more challenging than I thought it would be...).  Playing games long on grit and short on imagination, I found myself DMing a small group of friends through the plots of Fighting Fantasy books, with odd linking adventures that made some of the more random published aspects of D&D seem a lot more normal...

Small intermission here - I have only played D&D/AD&D and all variants once, and not entirely by choice.  Living in a small country town in the mid 1980's, pre-internet, meant that RPG ANYTHING was hard to get.  Impossibly hard.  D&D had passed through a few years before, and the only sign was a horrendously expensive (shipping costs roughly doubled the initial $) copy of Unearthed Arcana that made no sense whatsoever.  No other books at all...

And somehow I had gained possession of three copies of White Dwarf, and two of Dragon Magazine, in variable conditions.  The articles (one of the Creature Compendiums mainly) had a major influence over my games of the time.

At the same time, I had the first four books of Dragon Warriors, which turned up as paperbacks in the local bookstore.  They were simple, fun and easy to run, and formed the backbone of all the one-shot games played for a very long time.

But then I got Rolemaster... The 2nd Edition.. for another birthday.  And it worked well, as we played it in a simplified manner, with less rolls.  The character personalisation and combat (criticals, criticals, criticals...) were probably the best of either I've ever seem in RPGs.  The only campaign from my teenage years I can remember involved High Fantasy, World Shaking Events, and me playing a Paladin.  I died killing a dragon, and its corpse fell on me and crushed me.  Try getting that in any edition of D&D!

So with this varied background, I went off to a city a fair drive away to University, and met people, and found an RPG store (well, bookstore with an RPG section), and read lots of fantasy and SF books. And found that a lot of these books were not very good, and the people that I knew that played RPGs all turned into antisocial Munchkins and the few games I tried playing with them were not fun.

Imagine a room full of rules lawyers.  The first evening I attended we didn't game.  An argument about the reach of weapons from the previous game took up the whole time.  Then, when we did get around to gaming the next week, my 1st level fighter (average stats) joined their 5th level group, and despite them having +3 and better weapons, armour, etc, I only had my starting weapon and leather armour.  Died when attacked by some sort of undead that you could only hit with magical weapons.  A learning experience, but I never went back.  I looked at their character sheets when I was dead, wandering around the table.  No-one had a stat less than 16 and some were over 18, and I'm sure some of the multiclassing going on wasn't kosher.  Still, to each their own.

Later, a job in a foreign country, and a real, actual roleplaying game store that only sold RPGs in the neighbourhood.  And I ended up playing in a not-very-regular game of Legend of the Five Rings, First Edition.  Fun game that seemed more based on The X Files than anything Japanese, but a lot of fun.

Back to my home country after a few years, to start real life, and when moving between towns, picked up a few boxes from my Dad's place from my teenage years.  It contained the Dragon Warriors books, some of my MERP modules (the Court of Ardor being the favourite) and a lot of old handwritten notes for The-Great-Setting-That-Never-Turned-Out.  And I saw all the hype of D&D 3E, which made better sense than the previous editions and got me sort-of interested in the genre again.

And a few years ago, I found some 2nd hand RPG stuff, starting adding to the notes, discovered the HUGE Grognard blog circle out there, and ordered a heap of 1st Ed modules off Wizards a week before they closed off all pdf sales.  Pity.  Mostly I am like a magpie, and collect a variety of random ideas and use them as starting points for my own assemblage.

So this blog is my window to put out stuff that I've scribbled out in the past into some sort of order, and if people use it, steal it, or are entertained by it, that's great.

Hopefully something useful next post...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's a Pirate's Life for Me...

So, a Pirate Themed dress-up and drinks, with pirate games included after work a few weeks ago.  Costumes were varied but all equally desperate, and great fun was had by all, with a few bottles of rum finished off....

And, although I am NOT showing the pictures of the night, to avoid embarrassment, especially to me, it did get me thinking about pirates in my campaign world.

Not every person on a pirate ship is a pirate. The majority are thieves, barbarians, minor sorcerers and clueless fighters.  Those that are Pirates are so integrated into the life they have no concept of other lives; have reasons beyond the pale for their lifestyle; can stare down the curses of the Sea Goddess; and have faced the tempest and the calm;  these are the true pirates, who can match magics with Jack Sparrow and Bluebeard and sundry, and who leave their mark on the waters they sail...

Anyway, here's a pirate-type ship and a crew of desperate types, based on the turnout and costumes at the party.  Use how you want, as transport, flavour, rivals or allies.

Captain Deseralda the Fair

A slim, attractive woman in her late 20s, Deseralda is short (5'4") but has a presence that makes her seen the largest in most rooms.  Many fail to see the calculating mind behind the long blonde hair and the dimples.  In meetings of pirate captains, she makes her mark, with a web of contacts and favours to collect, and distribute...

She was born to a captured servant of the Island Princes of Trieste, and became a concubine at an early age.  A son was born when she was 16, and she doted on the child.  When he was 5, he was taken by his father, a Warrior Prince, to the northern lands (as was his legal right - servant's children are property of their masters in that civilised but decadent society) as a warrior's servant. This expedition soon vanished from knowledge.

After this, she joined the secret resistance of the oppressed, and led an assault on her master's stronghold during the main rebellion.  Although this rebellion was crushed eventually, she escaped with a number of other servants, capturing a sloop from the island fleet through subterfuge.   She has since formed a crew of surprising talents to assist her in regaining her son, from a place as yet unknown.

Sargent Tholos Minkaren

A barrel chested, shaven headed, extravagantly bearded warrior and scholar of the Horse Folk from the northern border of the Keldarian Duchies (think vaguely Scottish Highland Warrior with Spanish tendencies). Tholos is the Captain's right hand man and chief confidant.  He wears the full battle getup of his people, including leather belts holding a number of impressive throwing and stabbing knives, a helmet that resembles a horse mane and a rather short kilt.

He is a smart thinker, and knows many stories of The Painted Seas, but is the first to leap into action when required.  He is also an inventor of types, having developed a miniature crossbow and many types of exotic fireworks, for surprise, signalling and occasionally accidental explosions.

 Bloody Toloas

A man that was a clerk of the Temple of Justice in The Iron City of Naaga before being captured by slavers and rescued by the Captain.  He found the life suited him so well he had no desire or even thought of returning to the quill and parchment. 

He is of average height and built, somewhat pale skinned and always unshaven, and has a strange fascination with exotic peoples, animals and geographies. He manages to chronicle the Ship's voyages in the log book, but is also a violent and dangerous fighter when cornered.  He also remembers, poorly, the charms of Truth and Compulsion from his temple days.

Illymon the Pale

A tall stern woman with raven dark hair and pale eyes, Illymon has been a travelling priest of the Pale God for some 15 years, and naturally fell into the group's wake when they passed through the Graveyards of Port Oorath some three years past.

She can see the unsettled spirits that cluster around and seek to revenge themselves on their murderers, and can free them to seek vengeance on their killers at a word.  She is feared by reputation by the pirates of The Painted Seas, and even as far south as The Sea of Stars, but her spirit magic means she has a fearful audience in any port.

Mandai Stormrider

A fallen aspirant mage of the Golden Chambers, Mandai is a slender man with short cut hair, a jagged scar under one eye, and incredible muttonchop sideburns.  He is said to have burnt out part of his mind during one of the Chamber's infamous challenges, and was found by the crew on an isolated rock stack far from any land.  Some speak of a magical curse placed on him by his ex-masters.  He spends much of his time in quiet contemplation of objects and people around him, not speaking, but performing required actions almost in a daze. 

When the ship has been in desperate peril in the past, three times he has 'come to' and performed astounding elemental magics of water and air to the surprise of all, but soon returned to his normal state.  He also carries a strange jewelled curved sword of the western lands at all times.

Lady Thatheke

A slender active woman of indeterminate age, "The Lady" speaks with a strange unrecognisable accent that sounds vaguely of nobility to the rest of the crew.  She is secretive about her past, but despite her manners and extreme competence in all aspects of sailing, can fight, drink and loot with the best of them.

She wears simple clothes, but with scarlet cloth as a bandanna, a belt and around one leg, and collects choice pieces of jewellery as her part of any loot.

The Ship

The captured sloop is seemingly one of the many raiding sloops of the Trieste Empire, but closer inspections show the changes wrought over the past 6 years.  A rune engraved narwhal horn forms the figurehead at the prow, gained during a voyage to The Pale Sea and the Sorcerer-Priests of Pan Leng; Wyvern leather coats most rails, and many of the crew's weapons are dwarven, courtesy of their exploits assisting the Fortress of Baros Ghristor against raiders in their undermountain aqueducts.  The sails are made from the wings of the same Wyvern, and their golden shimmering makes the ship usually easily identifiable on sunny days.

It has been named the "Cursed Dragon" by a shaman of the Borogul Saltmarshes, and the name is borne with pride.  The ship very seldom takes part in raiding settlements or traders, and instead ambushes or hunts down single warships of the Trieste or other warlike nations, when not searching.  The path to Deserald's son has taken them to three oceans and up most of the great rivers, but they are no closer. 

A rumour recently overheard in a pirate tavern on the Black Isle of Miseleth coincided with a dream the Captain had under the influence of Dralma Oil, and both whispered that the Fire Opals of Aje will be a key.  So they search for the legendary gems rumoured last resting place in the Kopesh Rainforests, sailing up a freshwater river over 10km wide for weeks at a time.

If encountered, they are cautious but hospitable, and will usually trade information for like.  Befriend them and you will learn the meaning of comradeship amongst the pirates of the Painted Sea; Betray them to discover the eternal vengeance of the Cursed Dragon and her strange crew .

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How I See Dwarves....

In a fantasy world, Dwarves and Elves are seen as staples, and I think that's as it should be.  Without common factors between different worlds, there would be no points to orient yourself on, and it would be easy to lose sight of what's really different and what scenery has been shifted...

Subtle variations on these common factors highlight the differences.  Exactly how magic works, if you've reskinned it, may be a key make-or-break point of your game, world or setting, as does putting your own interpretation on a standard race.

Of course, having no real elves or dwarves makes it necessary, as there are no (well, actually hundreds) of external references that one could use, and some of them don't really work.  Seriously.  One of my childhood playing friends, upon reaching University, would only play in games where he could use his Dark Sun elf.  Apparently it didn't work in all settings...  So some prompts for players (and GMs) to refer to, to keep the third wall of believability intact, is most definitely needed.

MY concept of dwarves comes from selective reading of some of the classics - LOTR, Dragonlance (gully dwarves, anyone?), D&D, AD&D, Dragon Magazine, Rolemaster & MERP, but mostly from a year or so playing Dwarf Fortress.  Also tried reading The Dwarves, but it didn't work for me...

Real Dwarves:

"You know what I found most offensive about that damn smelly dwarf fellow?" asked Jonash the Foolish of The Witch of Hildast Hill, while trying to enjoy an ale at the Manky Duck Tavern...

"What of Urist?" murmured the Sorceress, staring at the blank tavern wall, ignoring the foaming drink in front of her.

"That damn sense of humour he didn't have.  Like when Gorosh stumbled into that falling axe trap and was split in half.  He almost rolled off the cliff laughing.  And those disgusting dwarven stories.  His favourite one was of his brother getting both arms cut off and still managing to kill a troll with an axe in his $%^* MOUTH!!!"

"I'll miss having a solid warrior with a sharp axe, but being certain everyone can keep dinner down at night is a good swap" Kerama the Swift spoke firmly, while poking the cheese wheel.  He was certain it was poking back at him...

Dwarves are biased, racist, offensive and smelly, and don't like any non-dwarves.  Because if this, they have no real worries if they don't like him or her.  This may affect their relationships with other races, if they cared about it, but they don't.

To a dwarf, family, clan and holding are all important.  A dwarven baby is relatively uncommon, but not rare, and there will always be a dozen or so babies in a fortress of a thousand dwarves.  The baby is carried around with it's mother for the most part, being lodged with a trusted female relative or friend if something very dangerous is going to be attempted - fighting monsters, greeting trading humans, breaching the aquifer...
The baby grows into a child in full certainty of its place and position within its underground home, and the home is all that is needed.  It will have memorised stories of its ancestors, and will be able to list them 20 generations or more back, along with stories of their deeds and misdeeds, and the history of the Fortress. 

As they grow they gravitate to the workings of the Fortress that interest them the most - from the farmers and herders to the jewellers and metalsmiths - and generally, unless the need of the Fortress is for something else, apprentice with a master of that craft and begin to learn the industry of the Dwarves.

Dwarven industry is famous for its weapons and armour, and also its cunning and masterful stone, wood and bone crafts, and their masterwork pewter goods.  But to keep the fortress running smoothly, farmers, butchers, weavers, brewers, tanners, smelters and miners are all needed, to name but a few.  None of these crafts, except perhaps cheesemaking, is looked down upon, and even the skill-less haulers of the larger Fortresses are proud of the loads they can bear.

This means your average Fortress dwarf knows where they are, what they do and where they fit in.  Their world is small but fits perfectly, and all they have to worry about is how far to the booze pile.

Now, and I'm sure you've worked this out, your PCs are NEVER going to meet one of these well adjusted, useful, content dwarves, unless they speak fluent Dwarvish and can sneak undetected into a heavily guarded and trapped Fortress to mingle with insular and boring locals. No...

Imagine how well a nice little dwarf, designed for life as a cog in a big fortress, manages to adapt to life outside.  In the rain.  In the cold.  In the sunlight. With all these stupid non-dwarves.

If you said 'Badly", you'd be right. 

The dwarves that meet with and travel with the PCs are maladapted, insane, broken beings.  They may hum all night to sleep. They may require rum, or beer, or brandy, at all hours.  They might make totems from their enemies skulls, but not real, nice, completed totems using all the required tools.  Strange, rotting, staring totems that really worry others...  They have no place, no family, no bigger reason to live.

More in a later post, when hopefully I get into a few examples of adventuring dwarves, and all their strange, twisted ways...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Google + is EVIL

So, signed in as usual to make a post, and GOOGLE PLUS wouldn't let me into this blog. So had to DELETE it and tell google why. Shameful

Shame on you Google, and shame on Facebook as well for changing something that was useful to something that is not.

Why do internet companies treat us like brain damaged monkeys???

Anyway, a REAL RP post sometime soon, as we had a Dress Like a Pirate evening for work, to relieve the stress of yet another restructuring, and there are thoughts, ideas and stories coming...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kunili Part 3

Well, work is a bitch and I've got a month worth of meetings to finish off something of great importance, while we're being reorganised again...

So this will be a dump of what I scribbled about the rather staid City of Kunili, although there is intrigue, seduction and danger lurking beneath the surface, if you scratch the wrong (or right) place, and having a as-yet unwritten Megadungeon close must add to the frisson...

Kunili Rumours and Legends

1. On a full moon, the menhirs can send fated dreams to sleeping citizens, that give glimpses into both the past and future
2. Rumours abound of craftsmen helped by the fey, although these arrangements going wrong eventually seems certain, at least, according to the rumours.
3. Some residents are suspected of being constructs, made (and controlled?) by Sonistos.
4. Guildmaster Shadin is said to talk to his collection of stuffed monster heads, and sometimes they answer him.
5. There are said to be secret tunnels underlying the city, although the only offers to show one the rumoured entrance will be made to young women by shady rogues in dark taverns...
6. The barge that sank just downriver is said to have been carrying three casks of Sendish Firewine, from the famous vintage of 911, but a lobster of unusual size has occupied the wreck.
7. For a true fate reading, take a silver coin and a gem to the last house on Dock Row, the one that looks like it is abandoned.  Cut yourself, bleed onto the coin, and give these to the pale hand that will appear from the mists.  Enter the house, and in the darkness, one that is neither human nor fey, alive nor dead, will give you one true answer. Beware, however, as answers are as dangerous as blades here.
8. Cursed goods can be bought or sold on the black market in the City, although there are a hundred opinions on how to contact it, none of them correct.
9. Mounted Griffin Riders have been seen to the South, over the unknown and unexplored Rewaquot Forests, but not close enough to see any signs or heraldry.
10. Lord Brightwater has placed another bounty on the Blanco Bandits, although it has been at least 6 months since they last molested shipping, and their woodland hideout appeared empty to the rangers that passed it last new moon.
11. The Steel Whistle is a solid tavern, with good natured drinking and gambling kept within bounds by Slow Piotr the barkeep.  He does tend to get rather short-tempered and a little hairy during the full moon, though.
12. All the prisoners have been taken from the dungeon and are being used as labour to dig irrigation ditches to the east of the City.  Rumoured to be for either cotton or fruit trees, sponsored by the respective guilds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Random Post

So, have been referred to the Random Blog Post Topic Generators from The Rusty Battle Axe which provides for an interesting assortment of, well, topics.

I rolled a 17, so it's Clothes and Style for Player Characters;

Copyright - Alan Lee

And I say, whatever suits you, providing it's functional for what you are trying to do, and you accept that it will get dirty, ripped, bent, broken, lose it's shine, and you'll probably need to buy a new one when you get back to civilisation as even the poor washer people who live under the bridge won't touch some things.

And I reserve the right to make ad-hoc judgements based on certain items carried or (especially) worn.  For example, few of the systems I play give a material bonus for wearing a helmet, and they can even hinder perception at times.  But I'll take that into account when the goblins pour burning coals onto the group. Along with flammable clothing choices.

Aside from that, mages really shouldn't wear long robes, as they aren't functional (ever tried running in a toga?), and get really wet and dirty when treading flooded corridors. I recommend soft leather pants and a cuirass, possibly reinforced with bone or the like.  So long as it doesn't mess with your casting or your fleeing skills, any protection is good.

As for warrior types, swashbuckling is fine in the City, or the Palace, where wearing full plate mail would be largely out of place, but peasants don't fight fair, and neither does anything that has to live in a dungeon.  Armour stops you getting hit, and then helps you survive the hit a little more.

Slightly irrelevant but a good picture
You can loot better weapons and armour from your beaten down foes, but even if the plate mail worn by the dark cultist is clearly magical, as it has engraved skulls and scenes of depravity, you will attract unwanted attentions if you insist on wearing it.  And even if the next group of cultist think you're on their side, your team may not be able to tell the difference when you're dressed the same as them.

But aside from that, conformity with stereotypes is discouraged. Why do all rangers have to wear leather, carry bows and fight with two swords? Somewhere in an unfinished dungeon crawl I've got a 2nd level woodsman character, who's the closest thing we have to a ranger.  Chainmail and a warhammer suit him well.The accompanying sorceress wears leather armour and uses daggers, but the barbarian is a stereotype, despite not having bulging muscles, and being an albino.

On that note, give your PC it's own style, and remember, clothing choices can both define and kill a character.

Kunili Part 2 - Personalities

Here's something I jotted down straight after the last post, but has languished while I had a bad cold, my wife had a bad cold, and after I bought Sword of the Stars... I equally love Fantasy RPGs and Space Empire building games.  For some reason, SciFi RPGs leave me cold.


But on with the people in your neighbourhood, at least if you live in Kunili...

The current Ruler is Lord Kazrees Brightwater, a former mercenary captain employed by the City during an invasion by a neighbouring city some 25 years ago.  As the last one of any rank standing during the initial counter attack, he received a field promotion from the dying Guildmaster.  Following the unexpected victory, a wave of public support kept him in charge, and he has never found good reason to step down since.  He is still a military man, level-headed but a little too literal. He spends most of his time engaged in either martial pursuits (falconry, hunting and swordplay, mainly) or holding the Guilds in check.

Guildmaster Merastor Sadin, Master of the Merchants Guild and the centre of the black market in the City.  Considers Kazrees too inflexible, but enough seems to be able to be snuck past him to be tolerable for the moment.  Merastor is a large and florid man, loud and bearded.  He prides his collection of stuffed animal heads, and will offer favours to those that bring him more exotic or rare examples.

Nin of the Burning Skull.  Plainsman, expert rider and Captain of the Guards.  Informal, insulting, honourable and always seeks revenge for any slights suffered or imagined.  Actually seems to like adventurers, and wears tokens of defeated foes. Prefers ears.

Chilerosen - Swordsmith and blade sharpener.  Also the first person ever to return from the third level of The Weeping Skulls.  Feels the call of the dungeon in his dreams, but lives vicariously through the many stories told by adventurers who frequent his shop, in the poor area near the north gate. He is a robust figure, large, red-haired and a heavy drinker, and an expert swordsmith and swordsman.  His forge is a general hang-out for serious adventurers, but bring your own drink.  Will repair arms and armour for average prices, if stories of the dungeon accompany payment, and he finds time to make 2-3 blades a month (despite the drinking) which are highly sought after and sell for triple normal price.

Thiolin, Elven diplomat.  Thin, languid (think David Bowie in the mid 70s) and exceedingly decadent, and the placid centre of a network of spies and informers.  He controls Elven involvement in both the Guilds and the Black Market and can source anything illegal and even most legal substances when required.  Is rumoured to be a Cleric, and has strange powers of illusion and darkness, but few understand the complicated ancestor worship of the Elven Cities.

Sonistos the Graceful.  Aged but elegant and slender sorceress, and, by default, both the ranking mage and Chair of the Mages Guild.  She is quiet and remote, but respected by all good citizens.  Her magical talents lie in the disciplines of Alteration and Constructs, and she has indicated an interest in the strange mechanisms that lie in the Weeping Skulls.  Hair, eyes and robes usually a shade of yellow.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The City of Kunili Part 1

More Excuses and The City of Kunili

Still trying to work out google's details, like a better appearance and font, but nothing seems obvious here... Stay with me until I get it right...

Anyway, was on holiday recently, away from home, and after the books had been read, local sights explored and relaxation commenced, I pulled out my copy of The Ultimate Toolbox and set about seeing if I could use it's cornucopia of tables to make something coherent.

I work best (for RPG ideas) if I can work off a starting idea or two, and create something of my own from those starting points.  I'm interested in building a corner of a world, or at least a place that related to other places that provides an adventuring environment.

Anyway, a city seemed the best place to start, as Chapter 3 has always looked good.

And so was born the City of Kunili (pron. Ku-nee-lee). (Part 1)

The name is a corruption of the original name given to the place by the Plains Tribes that originally occupied these lands - ku'Nuilili, meaning 'Sacred Hunter's Grove'. 

The founding story of the city involves a group of townsfolk from the Eastern lands fleeing a magical plague, and being welcomed by, and eventually merging with a tribe of the Plains, who were suffering from raids from other, stronger Tribes, and were hiding in a dangerous and sacred place.


The City itself is roughly triangular in shape, with the north wall running due east-west, mirroring the line of the Boarspine Mountain Range that the City abuts. The other two walls meet to the south-west.  At the north-eastern and north-western corners, lively streams of cold, clear snowmelt flow into the city, and a slower and slightly dirtier river flows out the south-east corner. 

The focal point of the City is The Island, in the centre of a small lake formed where the two streams merge.  Barely 50m in diameter, this roughly circular island has a narrow fringe of scrub and rushes, but the clear interior is dominated by a henge of ancient, jet-black and glassy menhirs.  Twelve trilithon stand equidistant around a clear area.  They are carved with strange runes that none have yet translated or understood, as they resist even magical divination.  The Tribe that was originally here was sheltering from other aggressive tribes in an area considered dangerous and fey.

The City's walls are wooden, but high and strong, made of great cross supported timbers, with wooden towers on each corner, and in the middle of each wall, where gates are open all daylight hours.  All the wood is carefully maintained and cared for, and is carved with imaginative and majestic engravings showing past heroes and leaders, native and fantastical animals, and scenes from the City's past.  Each tower has a four person troop of light infantry, with a seer or diviner occasionally present for unknown purposes.  They collect dues for entry, keep the peace and report back on currents and moods to their sergeants.

Inside the City

Kunili has a strong craft industry, and a strong civic pride arises from this.  There is also, however, an underlying sense of shame, as land holdings of the City to the West were lost following a disastrous attack on the neighbouring kingdom some 30 years ago.  This was the result of proclamations and political manipulations of the Cult of the Portals, the dominant religion of the City at that time.  Following the defeat, the Cult was destroyed by vengeful citizens, or at least outlawed and sunk into the shadows.

The nature of the populace is somewhat proud of their city and its works, but guarded and stubborn with outsiders.  There are still many aspects of the Plains culture, especially in their crafts, but also in the number of Spirit Mages and Herbalists in the poorer areas.

There are a number of cults seething in the dark reaches of the City, with the Cult of the Portal hanging on, along with worshippers of the Beast God, and various minor pain or lust demons, promising plenty, just not now... The main temples all exist in some form or another, but Moraine, God of Empires, is not allowed a building for a temple (a result of the last war).  The Merchant and the Traveller are by far the most popular temples, and the Huntress and the Lady both have sizeable groups of worshippers.  Travellers from other Eastern cities will find the temples quite cosmopolitan, with modern ideas.

There are small but efficient riverside docks downstream of the Island, that are vital for the importation of raw materials - timber, gemstones and quarried rock - from the wilder lands upstream, and allow the export of wooden and stone crafts, tools and carvings to the richer lands downstream.

Guilds and Economies

The Guilds are strong, controlling the production of exports, and wielding substantial political and social power.  Thankfully, they spend the majority of their energies feuding with each other over seemingly meaningless incidents and points of difference (no doubt encouraged by the current Ruler).  There are many guild festivals, which are the main celebrations and holidays of the City.  At Midwinter,  the most important ceremony takes place.  All of the population able to attend a simple Plains ceremony at the Island do so, or at least observe it from the shore.  This is now a lot simpler and more traditional that it ever was under the Cult of the Portal.

Only Guild members, guards, and those registered with the City can bear arms larger than a hunting knife - others must lodge theirs with the guards in the gates when entering the City.  Prospective dungeon raiders and general swords-for-hire are a special case, and can buy a one-off pass for 10 tali each time they enter the City.

The tali is unique to Kunili, and consists of a uniquely carved wooden disc, inlaid with shell, with a hole through the centre.  It is the only legal tender within the City, with all other coins being valued for their value in metal only.  The Moneycarvers Guild is in charge of the circulation of tali, and creating new ones while weeding out any copies or counterfeits. Due to the intricate and specialised design of each, though, few fake coins exist and all locals would instantly recognise them.  A tali is worth 1/2 a Jade Piece, which is valued at 5 silver florins in the Empire.  This gives the tali a rough value of two and half florins, which is useful to know when shopping there.

The Call of The Weeping Skulls

There are few inns in the City, as trade is usually by means of flat bottomed barges on the River and these are fast to load or unload and resume their downstream return. There are a few, however, near the gate in the north wall, where travellers leave for the strange dungeon complex known locally as The Weeping Skulls.  This is still a journey from Kunili, as hopeful delvers must pass the fringes of the Talonwoods and cross the narrow mountain pass known as 'Boulder Run', thanks to local Giants.

Extra coin is entering the City due to the numbers of foolish warriors and mages that have started delving the dusty corridors of The Weeping Skulls in the past four years since it's uncovering.  Many spend their last coin here on provisions, equipment, and carved wooden luck tokens, and do not return.  Those that do stumble back to civilisation clutching baroque jewellery and tarnished metal coins spend them on more supplies and better equipment, and enter yet again, as the Dungeon seems to cast a kind of addictive madness over those that tread it's dusty halls and breath it's foetid air.

Next post - Personalities and more of the Guilds

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm a bit late on this news, but Jeff's Gamblog posted some insightful and interesting questions about campaigns earlier this year, and in doing so, indicated that a lot of what is prepared is not interesting at all, while the basics are ignored. I've had a look at my most adventured in setting and realised I've got some of the answers, or at least an idea where they can be found.

So, for this setting, here are the questions with answers;

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Ask your god.  If you're lucky, they won't answer.  If you aren't, they'll turn up and ask you to do them a favour.  If you do, they might ask again, and that's probably not good.  The gods are not world builders, but were once mortal, and managed to grab (and hang onto) their mantle.  But, greater powers = greater concerns...

   2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

Try a town or city, or a mercenary encampment.  Not too many shopping opportunities out here on the moors, unless you can salvage something from that dead body over there...did it just move?

  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

Try a Dwarven metalsmith that drinks a lot.  There are enough of them in the Eastern foothills, but the payment they might ask should worry you. There's enough metalsmiths in the caravan town of Shevel, a few days to the south if you're serious.

  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Any that mighty are probably hiding from the attention of demons or greater powers, although Eade the Silent, Master of the Azure Tower in Sto'nat, Halgren Stoneface, whose chambers are somewhere in the ruins of the Broken Lands, or Alzagret the Blue, Dragonfriend, and hunted by the Brotherhood of Flame, are all suitable for most magical requests. But don't waste their time. Elminster they ain't.

  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Y'silis the Fallen Paladin of  the Huntress, immortal Scion of the Southland City of Teth.  One learns a few combat tricks in 1200 years of constant warfare.  Round here, the Vampire Kings of Gesdyn are probably dangerous enough, and they're only a weeks ride to the north.

  6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Probably the Dwarven Fortresses, but they aren't letting on where they are, let alone who much money they have.  And, anyway, a peasant with a cow is likely to have a happier and longer life than the average dungeon crawler.

  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

It is a little known secret that all healing potions are based on honey from giant bees, and that is what gives it it's blue colouring.  That aside, the temples of the All-Mother, and, strangely, Death, provide healing for a fee, but those with insufficient assets will probably end up consulting a village witch or hedge wizard for herbal remedies, and having to take plenty of rest.

  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

Again, herbalists and aged crones can probably point you in the right direction for a cure, except for death and undeath.  One must consult with the clergy of the God of Death on those matters. Don't do level drain or alignment, either, in my campaigns.

  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

I don't play D&D of any flavour, so don't have to deal with spell books and Vancian magic.  That aside, guilds are usually local, and it pays to keep on their good sides to avoid being made a scapegoat the next time a demon summoning goes wrong and the City Guard need someone to hang.  Each mage does have a lifelong connection to the master/mistress or institution that taught them the basics (the standard tuition for magic is from years 7 to 21, with monetary payment to be made following graduation, in coin, magic objects or services rendered), which can be comforting, challenging or embarrassing.

  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

A lord's castle might have one of these, but a city should have a small selection.  Lorman, Gesdyn or Amoth are the three most likely cities in the region for an expert in these fields, but each does have it's own potential issues.

  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Most big cities, or from various trading posts, although the normal mercenary companies number between 500 and 3000 fighters, and can be much greater during wartime.  More sensible for the average low level dungeon raider is a few bored pig farmer's sons, village idiots or other, failed dungeon raiders, usually found in taverns in villages near to the dungeon of your choosing.

  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Players asking this does worry me.  But providing you don't actually draw the blade, you should be okay.  Note that while sheathed blades are acceptable,battleaxes, morning stars, spears, lances and scythes are not welcomed on the streets of most large cities.  Smaller centres are more liberal.  As with weapons and spells alike, it's what you do with it that matters, and the local militia can be dangerous if provoked.

  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

If we're starting in Stalish, next to the Kelarus River, then the Rotted Oyster has a passable dark ale and a good supply of one armed travellers.  Turn left before the bridge.

  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

You'll find that out in good time.  At 1st level, travelling from one city to another will be hard enough without looking for trouble. If you're serious, try the edge of the Barrow Downs, running parallel to the North Road.  If you're lucky, only Winter Wolves, Trolls and minor undead should wander along.

  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Always.  The Baron of Tordarth is still considering threatening the southern fiefdoms, and far to the south, the clash of armies has been ringing for the past thousand years.

  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

It's really only the Trieste Republic that are into that sort of thing, and the nearest Arena of theirs is in occupied Port Ooroth on the shores of the Painted Sea.

  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

Cults abound.  Best find out their true motives, persuasions and powers before either joining or assaulting them, as misunderstandings can be unfortunate... But some of them may offer some useful powers with only minor drawbacks. 

  18. What is there to eat around here?

Do you have hunting, foraging or herbalism as a skill? If not, it's 3 coppers for lunch at the Oyster, and it will take us that long to get there.  Should be some type of roasted game animal, with root veges and some sort of stodgy oatmeal cakes.

  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Yes, but there are others that have been looking for them too, for quite a while, so they aren't lying out in the open, and probably aren't defended by goblins either.  You're better off finding a rich but little known treasure first. And that takes a bit of roleplaying to uncover...

  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

There's the Black Queen in the lost Dwarven Keep of Azhgael, who, with an army of dark forces battles a fire demon for the riches of the abandoned halls.  Sure to be all sorts of riches in there, and there's a one armed man in the Rotted Oyster who will offer you a map to a secret entrance to the outer mines for only 3 gold crowns...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wow - four posts in a year.  Not good, but I will try to do better...

Here I plan to post basically systemless ideas, settings, people or events for others to use as they want or give them ideas, even though I can't compete with the awesome Old-School RPG blogging going on these days.

I've got a huge amount of scrawled notes on various RPG campaigns, some used and worn out, some not, some  that don't really fit anywhere.  Where I pick up ideas, I usually write them down later, and then adapt them to my type of campaigns, where high level magicians keep a low profile so as to avoid unnecessary attention and not every tavern is run by a retired high level fighter.

I plan some sort of structure to this eventually, but it's getting late, so here's one of the things that may be happening in the north eastern part of the main empire in my current campaign;

Enerahna the Shadow Queen

Formerly a minor sorceress and youngest child of the ruling family of a moderately sized frontier domain just beyond the eastern borders of the Empire , following the sudden, unexpected and unrelated deaths of her parents and four brothers (disease, falls, hunting and horse riding accidents, and drowning) Enerahna (pronounced En-e-ranna) the Pale ascended as sole ruler only four years ago, during a memorably wet spring.

Within the first year of her reign, border disputes with a newly aggressive bordering barony, goblin raids from the mountains and a spate of banditry disrupted vital trade routes and created hunger and poverty.  Following a failed assassination attempt, Enerahna the Pale disappeared into the mountain wilds to the north with a mysterious stranger.  She returned a week later, alone, with a glowing crown that gives her greater magical powers, and allows her to summon faceless warriors clad in strangely ornate suits of full plate to serve her.  These 'Shadow Knights' (as the common folk refer to them) are deadly in battle, but although they have quelled the raiding and banditry, the populace fear them and the new power of their Queen.

Using her new powers, she has expanded the dominion's borders several times, and has also attracted the attention of more powerful people, and forces.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Well, this site is not quite dead.  A new laptop comes with great powers and temptations, including Dwarf Fortress, Oblivion and World of Tanks (no, I'm not giving the links.  These things are dangerous!)

The aim of this site is for me to put out there my little wonderings and scribblings concerning fantasy roleplaying, and the end result of 20-odd years trying to come to terms with my personal issues with most, if not all, published games.  Even though I can be amazed, astounded, and surprised by most of them, and steal the shiny bits I like for my own Frankenstein creation.

Here's something I jotted down last night - it solved a problem I had in my own campaign world, and reinforced one of the central tropes.

The Banshee 

These cursed and unwelcome spirits are seen as the curse of the Great Elven Families, but the forces that inform and inspire them are little understood.

The Great Elven Clans are known for their arrogance and disdain for other, inferior races, but this is tempered somewhat in the five families that were responsible for the internal wars that split the Elven Kingdom some 1600 years ago.  The banshees that haunt them on occasion remind them of the legacy of the hatred of those times, and cause them to reign in their worst emotions.

An Elven or Half-Elven Maiden of one of these families that falls victim to an unnatural death, usually where the body cannot be recovered and given the traditional burial services, or suicide, which is forbidden to those of Noble blood, can return as a Banshee Spirit.

 These rare events first occur in the vicinity of the Noble Halls where one of the scions of the family will soon perish.  Seen as a cloaked and hooded figure in the half gloom of a moonlit night, they seem as an attractive Elven woman, until closer inspection shows the long streaming hair, the sharp teeth and the empty eye sockets, along with the wounds that killed the maiden.

The appearance of a Banshee puts the entire clan on edge, although there is a fatalistic bearings to their reaction.  The appearance or actions of the Spirit may indicate the manner of death, and the person affected.  If one is fated to die in battle, the Banshee will wear full Elven Battle Armour under its cloak, or, if drowning will take the victim, it will appear in or on water.  There will be guessing as to the target of the warning by the assembled Court, and scheming will no doubt be initiated based on any manner of interpretation.

As the inevitability of the death increases, her keening wails will begin, only sounding when the victim is present at first, but throughout the hours of darkness and them even into the day when the event is immanent.  This causes no magical damage or attack, but keeps all on edge, grants sleepers no rest, and alarms and upsets animals, especially familiars.  Diviners and Seers are blind to their other senses during these calls.

There is always a significant death when the Banshee calls.  Sometimes the dead are expected - an heir fighting an unwise duel, a queen with a difficult pregnancy, or a dying aged Lord.  Othertimes, the death of a little known woodsman or groom confuses all except those who know the secrets of a mysterious birth some 20 years ago...

Any who encounter a Banshee and do not flee immediately, whether on purpose or by chance, will be either slain on the spot, driven mad by visions of their own, or another's, death, or, more rarely, have some of the secrets of the grave shared with them.  Whether or not this is welcomed, it often changes the outlook of a formerly carefree grave-robber or hedge mage.

Banshees are viewed with both horror and a grim pride by the members of the Cursed Families.  It is said, at least by one who dwells in the twisted depths of the Elven Moors, that these shades hold the secrets of the still-shrouded Elven Wars.

Good luck to those who encounter them, especially human seekers in the Elven Lands.