Encounters recap 29 Jul 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, low-level dungeons, Mount Mayhem, Winged Elves, Les Yay

The Schematic Map of the Temple of the Elements.

The party returns to the Temple of the Elements Dungeon, this time entering through the Temple of Howling Hatred, Point A in the abstract map. This is the first half of a two-part series I call “I wanted this floor to be easy, but….”

Instead of scaling this floor to fit the party, I used the standard bad guy layout, hoping that the players will breeze through this floor and move on deeper into Fane of the Eye, which is where they were the deepest.

However, I didn’t count on the shenanigans brought on by the players, in what I’d like to call Mount Mayhem. I’ll use that to describe the tendency of all the players to put mounts or their characters, no matter how off the wall they can be. We went form pigs, which someone of the party reduced to bacon, to a giant frog that wasn’t originally in the set-up—don’t ask; it involves speak with animals with the tiny frogs in the game—to the wyvern one of the Skyweavers had, which they flew right into the step pyramid where Aerisi was sitting in.

I know I should never underestimate the inguinity of the players on the table, but they keep surprising me. During the ensuing battle, where I dropped the character—Kyle’s second Wild Mage no less—who had the wyvern mount, another PC tried to wrest it from him. Now I have to deal with a duel in the pyramid for the wyvern…and Chase will return next week with his own Bulette.

And I’ll have some very interesting developments at the start of the next session.

By this time, I see more developments of the Custom Realms while I’m working. I’ve already turned some previous NPCs into their own unique lives, such as Coran in Baldur’s Gate, and Dralmorrer Borngray from Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I’m doing the same to the Cults of Elemental Evil.

I’ve been looking around the net in my spare time for developments in other games. Since I didn’t touch the Believers cult in Red Larch, so I didn’t even have them in my version of Red Larch. The town is still pretty stock with the sole addition of my replacement witch in The Helm in Highsun, who has become the hero—and sweetheart—of the city. Compare that with some campaigns where Harburk turned into Vlad Dracul levels of extremism.

Most of my developments occur with the cultists the party has encountered so far:

Marlos Urnrayle

He’s stuck deeper in the Temple, either in the Fane of the Eye level or further below in the Black Geode. He lost Ironfang, so he’s looking for an alternate weapon for the rematch, something that can equal in his attacks and unlock the node to release the Prince Elemental, or find a way to get Ironfang back.

Aerisi Kalinoth

Four Words: Illusionary Wings My Ass. I gave Aerisi real wings that really lift her off the ground. Because that’s what Aerisi would’ve wanted. Maybe the Air Prince Elemental granted her those wings for her service to said elemental. Or maybe she magically grafted the wings on her own body, fueled by her narcissism and her desire to become a winged elf herself. Anyway, she doesn’t need to convince people that she is an avariel, like in the published module. She really is an avariel.

Savra Belabranta

The Fethergale Nights aren’t a cover for the Cult of Howling Hatred, but a legitimate patrol group created by the Lord’s Alliance. (Contrast with the Sacred Stone Monks) Again, this is to speed up the storyline. But Savra is irrevocably wooed by Aerisi to be her right hand prophet, so loyal to her that she has fallen in love with her. I have her use Windharrow’s stats with Aerisi’s spells, and used Chain Lightning to one round Kyle’s character.

Windharrow

To account for the time elapsed so far, I changed some positions of the Initiates in training, as well as getting those who are with Windharrow some actual skill in those bone flutes.

Unfortunately that skill didn’t save him from one of Bill’s favorite tactics. Open Door, lob in fireball like a Dragon Slave Grenade, Close Door, wait for results.

Windharrow survived this floor twice, first by saving against the fireball, taking half damage, and again as he accompanied Savra in the pyramid, where he used Dimension Door to get himself and Savra out of the action. They’re going to regroup and come back—probably at the Fane of the Eye level—for a big boss battle.

I hoped to see some more developments in my Virtual Table campaign, but I had similar problems with that party—even with the new players—and their desire for strange mounts. Stay Tuned for the Dreams of the Red Wizards recaps.

Dreams of the Red Wizards Recap, 23 JUL 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Red Dragon NPCs, disgruntled players, and DMs who just want to have fun.

By now the Scourge of the Red Wizards campaign has reached halftime. The first two dungeons were taken care of, and there’s some lighter role playing fare to deal with before the other two is dealt with. In the meantime, the party has discovered a basement with a Red Dragon Wyrmling inside. A dragon that the party succeeds to befriend, and a special Pandaren brew book, so much that Chou, the Pandaren Brewmaster, can go on to be the tavernmaster to the tavern the party has…

Just in time for the player of Chou to bail from the campaign.

I think I mentioned this before: Since this is my first Roll20 Virtual Table campaign, I would expect players to join in, find out more about me as a DM, and then just walk out. From what I heard from others, this is normal for fledgling DMs until you get a small group of steady players. This particular bail out comes out of two items I can talk about: A case of inconsistency, which is on me, and the tendency for someone used to 3.5E to play 5E like it was 3.5E, something which isn’t.

Inconsistency is something I’d admit to, since I’m still experimenting with my Dungeon Mastering style. In this case it’s my use of fudge dice (/r 4df) for some attack rolls. Especially when attacks with huge damage ties with the player’s AC, and I don’t want to just TPK a party while I have such good content further down the campaign. Maybe I use the fudge dice too much, and it’s something I’ll be working at in the future, but that’s not the most important thing in my DM style.

To me, the best thing about being a DM is that it’s flat out fun. It’s fun telling stories, and fun seeing the party tackle the challenges before them. I love it when the party argues with each other on an item in game, even to the point where things totally get out of hand. To me, Fun trumps the Gameplay, which trumps the Rules. Some people don’t apply to this concept; they want the game to adhere to the established rules, both published and home, and when they’re not consistent they leave the game.

This isn’t some professional series of Tabletop RPGs, this isn’t Fourthcore, this is a D&D game with stuttering, stammering, autistic me as the DM, and regardless of what happens on the table, or what spits out of my mouth, the biggest question is “Are you having fun.” If you are, then I’m doing my job well. If you want to see a professional do this job with voice acting and characterization, go watch Chris Perkins behind the screen. I’m nowhere near Mr. Perkin’s level and probably never reach that point in this life. I just don’t give a fuck over it.

This isn’t a new thing. #Gamergate came about mostly because some people claim that Video Games shouldn’t be fun. Of course, those in Gamergate would bitch about the depiction of females and the ridiculously named ‘People of Color,’ than any strict adherence to any rules. Either direction, to me, only makes me think that you’re taking things way too seriously. This is a game, doing well is one thing, but even if you’re talking, I’d like you to have fun doing it. That way, you can keep coming, and maybe even be one of my steady players.

Which, as I come back to what I want out of Roll20, is exactly what I’m looking for. I want steady players who like what I’m bringing. Once I get a good steady stream of players, I can move on to better things.

Such as whatever or not fudge dice belongs in my Virtual Table.

In the meantime, the campaign will sidetrack into a homemade adventure over at Waterdeep, so that something can be constructed before the party returns to Daggerford and continue on the story. It’s a perfect place for people who want to play at my Virtual Table to jump in, so if you want to, go ahead and send me a comment.

Encounters Recap: 23 JUL 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Players going Chaotic Neutral, NPC becoming Lesbian for Winged Moon Elves, and a special mechanic for my version of Into the Abyss.

This was the end of the filler before we return into the Temple. The party—with fewer members this time, only seven showed up—managed to take care of the Hill Giant and the Black Earth cultists converting the villagers of Westbridge. They were too late to rescue some of the villagers in town from the cult’s influence, but enough villagers were able to hold them at bay. The mayor gave the heroes 100 GP and I granted the party Fast Travel along the surface thanks to Sedina Wolfpaw’s messager’s service.

The party also got this Schematic Map of the Entire Temple.
The party also got this Schematic Map of the Entire Temple.

With that, the party returned to the Temple, with the help of a map drawn for them by a cultist they captured. Given a choice between the four entry points (One of them already cleared), they chose to enter through the Featergale Spire. I sped up the scenes there, mostly to get the party back to the dungeon, I only have little more than a Month back in standard time, but also because the party characters are acting a bit, how can I call it, Chaotic Neutral? Performing for the Feathergale Knights, attempting to steal everything that isn’t nailed down, Kyle’s reincarnated character, who is still having some scatter brain a la a Gallifreyan regeneration, asking whatever any insignificant item “is it a node?”

It’s not a good sign when the person behind the DM’s Screen is laughing like someone who lost his marbles, especially if that person is known for being autistic.

Fortunately, John, one of the more experienced people on the team (the one who DMs 1ED campaigns) had an idea. He cast minor illusion to create a pot of gold for the party to jump on en masse. It was the Knight’s time to get a good laugh at the party’s expense.

HowlingHatred1

And then they go back to the main business. Instead of Savra Belabranta being present but under the control of the Prince of Elemental Air, Yan-C-Bin, I had her swooned into a romantic relationship with the Air Prophetess, Aerisi. She’s become as reverent in her belief about Elemental Air being the savior of her hometown of Waterdeep as she is passionate about the winged elf. I have her show up in Priestess robes (probably scantily clad with an ability to glide, and sent a bunch of large winged animals to attack the party), she then proceeded into the Temple of the Howling Hatred with the party in hot pursuit.

So now I need to make another map for the campaign table, with a setup document for what’s behind the screen. No matter. I can do that in my sleep. But there’s something I’d like to add for next season.

As you would know by reading along with the Adventurer’s League site, you know that the Rage of Demon’s season will have a Madness Mechanic into play. I like the idea, but the official mechanics, though kept within 5E’s simplicity, doesn’t have the right feel for me. I’ve designed my own Madness Mechanic based on a new attribute which I’ll playtest in my Encounter Table. I’m calling it the Stress Quotient, or SQ.

Take your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma Scores and add them all together. That’s your maximum SQ, and it works much like Hit Points. They can take damage and heal much like HP. When you need to make a Madness Check, you roll a 1d100, or take a 1d20 and Multiply it by 5, and add your current Stress Quotient. You pass when your roll is above a uniform DC. At first I decided on 100, but I think I’ll set it at 80 for my table. You roll under that, then the published Madness mechanic kicks in.

I hope to develop this mechanic to produce a more realistic portrayal to what Mental Illness is like in a RPG setting, hopefully to encourage compassion and awareness of Mental Illness in the real world. You learn a lot of real-world skills with D&D, learning about things you don’t normally hear about wouldn’t hurt as well.

ÆTHERCOIL Worldbuilding Blog #2

“It began with the Cubs winning the World Series, and it went downhill from there. The world we knew collapsed under its own weight in the manner of years, vanishing into memory, and then not even that. A dark time befell this world, with warlords and tyrants ruling over the people, until a bright light appeared in the East, heralded by the Princesses driven them all away.

It is 300 years since the old world fell, and the world stands upon the beginning of a new renaissance. A coalition of bright kingdoms now explore the world around them, searching lost civilizations and rediscovering inventions to progress civilization. But evil and chaos are still present, and they lie in wait for an opportunity to reclaim their power. Heroes are called, and adventurers present themselves, as they begin the Age of Rediscovery.”

I managed to get some feedback from my first post of my ÆTHERCOIL blog.  I’ll respond to the feedback, then move on to newer content.

But first, I think a bit of calendar work is in order.

From this point on, I’ll use the “After the fall of the real world” scenario as origins go.  Makes things easier for me, as well as provide a talking point or two. I’ll also be when the need comes up splitting the Mind Map into Submaps when the need comes forth, displaying them when they’re reference and listing them all at the bottom of each post.

The Main Worldbuilding Map
Current Main Mind Map

I’ll use the Wrigley Reckoning for the calendar.  In ÆTHERCOIL, the moment of the Cubs winning the World Series, which signaled all the shit to hit the fan, is so prevalent that they changed the calendar.  They even moved the New Year Day to October 23, the day everyone remembers as the day they did it.  Zodiac signs denote months of 30 days, split into three tenday ‘weeks’, with 5 days falling between the months, six if you count Leap Year.

 

Georgian Calender(Not Counting Leap Days) Calendar of Wrigley
Oct 23 Wrigley
Oct 24 – Nov 22 Scorpio 1-30
Nov 23 – Dec 22 Sagittarius 1-30
Dec 23 Yule
Dec 24 – Jan 22 Capricorn 1-30
Jan 23 – Feb 21 Aquarius 1-30
Feb (22) Regalia Day (Leap Year)
Feb 22 – Mar 23 Pisces 1-30
Mar 24 Belthane
Mar 25 – Apr 23 Aries 1-30
Apr 24 – May 23 Taurus 1-30
May 24 Summertide
May 25 – Jun 23 Gemini 1-30
Jun 24 – Jul 23 Cancer 1-30
Jul 24 – Aug 22 Leo 1-30
Aug 23 High Harvest
Aug 24 – Sep 22 Virgo 1-30
Sep 23 – Oct 22 Libra 1-30

(Note to self: Find a way to add more Baseball into this world, maybe as a sacred game that kingdoms use to resolve disputes. Instead of a war, they stage a best of seven series in a neutral baseball field. Some armies also train in the game.)

Races Mind Map
Submap of the Races available in Æthercoil

 

Another point to quickly discuss is how the other races came about. As the world ‘regresses’ to a Middle Earth like environment, which is what this real world becomes by 300 WR, you will have Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, various furry-based races, other more traditional Fantasy World races, and so on. I have decided that, instead of reducing the planet to an inhospitable husk, the combination of a Middle Eastern nuclear war interacted with global climate change and—at first, countered each other out—but then also ripped through the fabric of space and time, resulting in the revelation of this world’s Feywild and Shadowfell. This produced the majority of the environmental change, requisite monsters, and additional races in the world.

(By now you should know that, when I talk about ‘race,’ I talk about race in the Tabletop RPG races, not in any current real-world sense. To me, all Humans are lumped together in a single race, with it’s subsets regarded as ‘Cultures’ rather than ‘Races.’ Some of you might need to know this. I also default with cisgendered male pronouns. Fucking cope.)

There are two ways a race can appear: One, which is more possible for furry races, an existing animal species gain sentience, stand upright, and basically have an Ascent of Man in a manner of years, or maybe weeks, although not much more of a century. Such is the case of, say Pandaren, which is now called Pandafolk. (See below) The Chinese there are awestruck when they see their prized mascot creatures turn into native-like beings that taught them a lot more about their country than they thought. Pandafolk even helped guide the Chinese Government away from its current socialistic style and adapt to the AEthercoil world. Hard to rattle any sabers when you are represented as a talking bear that’s meditating, drinking brew, and being Fluffy.

The second part is more transformative. A progenies of a certain race, a deity if you will, spirits away some humans into their world and transforms them into the deity’s nature. This world’s Corellon, for example, will have done this for Elves. He spirited away some lost person—usually an orphaned child or lovelorn adult—into their world and either transformed personally or bred with to produce the first elves that return to the world with their own language and culture, taking over whole swaths of uncivilized lands. Dwarves have done the same thing, although their lands have been discovered in the Siberian regions (Hence Dwarves in AEthercoil tend to speak with a Russian accent instead of a Scottish one.) A Kitsune deity known as “The Lady” did the same when she created the Kitsune race, although details might not be G-Rated. For brevity’s sake with this log, I’ll save the other details for later.

I want to go on with the feedback I got at this time, and they came from several different sources.

The first one was already mentioned: David Black from Google+ mentioned Pandaren, which I’ve renamed Pandafolk.

Some ideas I find from other IPs are just too good to pass up, and Pandaren is one of them. In order to make them fit in AEthercoil, I have to do some serious tweaking to said particular piece. Of course, this consist of what fanfict writers call “Filing off the Serial Numbers,” that is removing all words that connect the piece form the IP (similar to D&D using the word ‘Halfling’ to call what Lord of the Rings fans see as a ‘Hobbit’) but after that, I wanted to tweak the piece so that it fits better in this new world I’m making.

Changing ‘Pandaren’ to ‘Pandafolk’ was a no-brainer. The real trick is to transition the race from Azeroth to the ‘pseudo-real world’ setting of AEthercoil. Fortunately, I can easily plug in the current regional flavor in place. In AEthercoil, Pandafolk have their homelands in the Sichuan province, surrounded by a traversable mist wall that serves as their land’s geopolitical boundary as acknowledge by the Chinese Government. There they live out a live similar to Pandaria, but with motifs that are Chinese, including language (their chosen language is Mandarin) and architecture. They are practicing Buddhists as well as Kung Fu practitioners, which causes some to become Shaolin Monks. Not to mention masters in Drunken Fist, which is a quintessential Panda style. Pandafolk population is slowly, yet gradually improving, as Pandafolk that was previously pandas in zoos were returned to their homeland. Fortunately, some Pandafolk love to travel and see new things, especially the more famous Stormstout clan. (It’s the only part from Blizzard I’ll be keeping.)

Oh yeah, nobody has ever lived until they drunk Panda Brew. It’s this world’s answer to Anheuser-Busch.

Gowkaizer96 from my Play by Post games wanted to know that, “if you are smashing Eberron into Forgotten Realms, clearly you need to include the plains nomad Halflings riding Dinosaurs.  More civilized ones were also a thing (Had a character who worked for the Halfling house of professional healers).  But, you know, Halflings on Dinosaurs.”

He also had some weapons ideas which I stored in One Note for later. But I want to get to the Halfling part. In AEthercoil the Halflings, or Hin for the official race title, will go into two forms: Stronghearts and Lightfoots. They’re much like what 5th Edition describe them. Stronghearts are the kinds of Hin you’ll find in the Hobbit-Lord of the Rings, they have their shire-like settlements and prefer the comforts of hearth and home, eating, drinking, and smoking the pipe weed.

Oh, do I have to say that Hemp is a completely legal crop? Including as a smoke?

Lightfoots are the ones afflicted with wanderlust, always wishing to wander off somewhere and go on a grand adventure after another. These are the Hin that players will find as part of their party. A subset of Lightfoot Hin eventually, over the course of the 150 years they were present, formed the Visanti, which is the world’s Gypsy society. Visanti Hin are the ones that would be riding the Dinosaurs.

Inventions in the Æthercoil world

The last in the feedback comes from Brett Turner over at Skype, and he talked with me about the marquee feature of AEthercoil, inventions. “God, if that doesn’t run the gamut, then you’d have to incorporate a ton of electronic advancement. Any ideas on that one? making magic more esoteric than commonplace and scientific development a way to work in symbiosis?”

As I said in the previous post, the world is built on top of the current real world, with all of its inventions waiting to be rediscovered (Hence the subtitle, “Age of Rediscovery”). Some of the inventions, once studied and understood, become used by the current society, a series of city-state points of light run by a coalition of ruling ‘Princesses.’ At this time, most of the inventions are early and at their infancy, while some are steam powered. Æthercoil is going to have a strong Steampunk vibe in some cities. Other inventions are still being dabbled around by special mages known as artificers who wish to use the æther, which is the setting’s way of calling the Weave in Forgotten Realms, to enhance current inventions, such as using magic to give an airship lift and power engines to move the propellers. And then there are some inventions that exist only in the dreams and visions of the inventors themselves, which are the natural progression of the current inventions they have now.

I’ve made a sub-map to show a very incomplete list of the inventions in play thus far. I’ll be writing about them further in future posts.

Mind Map Listing:  All Mind Maps accounted for here.

Dreams of the Red Wizards recap 16 Jul 15

I might not think this is the mindset of every DM out there but I love it when something pops up from left field and throws a monkey wrench in my campaigns. It might make me stall on the table, where I really start stuttering, but during that time, wheels are going in warp drive in my head as I think of how to incorporate this development into the campaign.

This is what I like happening. The right side of brain might hate it, it doesn’t like surprises, but the left side lives for this. This is when the unexpected happens on the table that makes D&D a very unique game to play. No two tables play the same game twice, and no published campaign ever contains every possible situation that comes your way.

Such as when the party goes back to town at the end of Harpshield Castle and before they head to Julkoun. Someone decided to do a little carousing.

I’d usually refer to the DM guide for any needed tables to counsel, but if someone pops a link to a table they will use instead, I’m going to allow that.

Brett called this carousing table: http://grsdm.wikia.com/wiki/Carousing_Table

He rolled an 81

Everybody, including me, had a collective OMG!

80-85 Your character now owns the tavern, wine shop, or brothel he woke up in.

I had to pause the campaign to set up The Mangus Scroll, a new tavern in the town of Daggerford. It’s just as well, because Sir Isteval misses that Pandaren Brew and Chou needed a place to make his brew. A fortunate d100 roll makes everything easier.

At this point, I have the feeling that the game has changed. I originally created this campaign to string Scourge of the Sword Coast and Dead in Thay, but this tavern changes a lot; the party might decide not to deal with the Thayans and instead just opt to run the tavern, which is fine by me. A ‘slice of life’ campaign would be a nice change of pace, especially when I can now regularly stream my sessions. Besides, just because I started with a published campaign, doesn’t mean that the campaign has to end there; The campaign lasts as long as they have to. Veer to one side and leave the published part entirely, on the table. Continue their legends after the campaign, on the table. Completely uproot my Realms in the process…let’s talk about it.

Expect to see a lot more about The Mangus Scroll, how they stock and hire the help, and a secret dungeon underneath where they need to clear for a brewing space, in the not too distant future. Just like with Red Larch and Parnast, these cities are gaining a life of their very own.

NatyssaIn other developments in the campaign, the party managed to return the Delimbiyr Bloke back to Daggerford, which reopens the city back from its lockdown. One of the wrenches they hired is Natyssa, who is the village harlot and…if you read the module, she has a darker secret. The main question would be: would that come into play in a form different than what they put in the campaign, if at all?

Stay Tuned.

Encounters Recap: 15 Jul 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, deliberate altering of the published campaign, PC’s acting badly, witches with pointed hats.

Before I start, I’d like to announce the brand name for the campaign world I’m making. After some E-Mail with Ivan, an old friend of mine, I decided on the name of ÆTHERCOIL. Yes with the A and E together to show I’m not fooling around.

Logo to come.

This week’s session was a bit slow, since it took place between delves in the Temple of the Elements. There were a couple surface world reprisals and an encounter, the first being reports of Earth Cultists about to nuke Red Larch with an Orb of Devastation, a supposedly random Earthquake, and an attack by Air Cultists. The party is then led to a side quest in Westbridge to deal with a Black Earth mini-prophet selling some particularly lulzy old time religion to the desperate people there.

Bill: What do you have that’s gonna stop us from stopping you?

DM: With that the prophet snaps his fingers, and the whole side of an inn gives way, revealing a Hill Giant that was inside at the time, hearing all that.

Bill: Good Answer.

Needless to say that the game’s action will return next session.

Two points that happened in the meantime. One of my pet peeves as a DM is people who read the module I’m working on and using it as a walk through. Almost required in some console games, but an irritation in Tabletop, so I make an effort to alter some details in the published campaign. One of them is my concept of persistence, where actions of previous campaigns—even those the current table haven’t been in—carry over to current campaigns. I had a Baldur’s Gate in a rebuilding time because of my first DMing campaign, and some aftereffects of Hoard of the Dragon Queen are carrying over to my Play by Post work. (Reminder to myself, finish that Masks and Mythos recap!)

But if that isn’t enough to throw players out of their walkthrough, I can always make replacement characters, which is what I did with the Helm at Highsun in Red Larch. First off, I’m not using the version from the module: I got my hand on Volo’s Guide to the North and used that as an additional source: Here’s the entry on The Helm at Highsun, Page 81 in this book:

THE HELM AT HIGHSUN

The Helm is a dim, quiet place, frequented by caravan guards, adventurers, retired folk, single folk who want to be alone, and merchants who want to relax. “No one bothers you in the Helm,” they say. This motto is enforced by a silent, attentive, and menacing helmed horror. It’s an empty, animated suit of armor that serves as waiter, usher, bouncer, and sometimes, cloak rack. The horror is known as Araldyk, and it is under the mental control of the Helm’s owner, a mage named Yather Indaglol. Most patrons of the Helm have never seen Yather. He keeps to his locked chambers, which he shares with a pseudo-dragon familiar. He runs the tavern using wizard eye spells, a speaking-tube, and a staff of a dozen skilled workers.

Since the Volo Guides take place in 2nd Edition, I needed to have some changes to denote the time change. With the Helm of Highsun, it was easy for me to have Yather take up an apprentice, someone who will learn Yather’s magic as well as manage the tavern. That also makes me return to one of my favorite character themes, female magic users in witches gowns and pointy hats.

Meriele(I really need to work on the backgrounds in these grayscale sketches.)

Meet Meriele Amblecrown, the current manager of the Helm of Highsun. She doesn’t go out much, although she isn’t as much of a recluse (Can I call Yather a Faerun version of a Hikkikomori? He has the traits) and when she does go out of her tower, it’s for a good reason.

Like neutralizing the Orb of Devastation that the Earth Cultists placed in Red Larch, saving the villagers and gaining her at least one paramour in waiting. You’ll be seeing more of Meriele in future scenes in Red Larch.

Also of interest is what’s going to be the start of the major battle on the table, between myself and Chase, who has a very OP Half-Orc Barbarian-slash-Favored Soul. An Half-Orc who’s now showing his roots by intimidating one of the fallen Air Cultists and hiding him in an underground cell of his own making. Dick Move trademark, Chase. I’m going to have to throw up a surprise or for you.

The jury’s still out over where they’ll return to the Temple. Black Earth is more worked over, but there is also the possibility for two more entry points: The Wind Cult entry, with the Sighing Valley, and the Fire Cult entry with Scarlet Moon Hall. Chase showed some interest in the Fire Element, so this is where I might make things rough for him.

Before I go to the next session, I’m going to have to make an isometric layout of the Temple floors.

ÆTHERCOIL Worldbuiding Blog #001

David Foxfire’s Worldbuilding Thread

A Foxfire Studios open blog

 

(Referenced Pic:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willem_Troost-_fantasy_Rhine_landscape_with_castle_town.jpg)

EDIT:  Brand Name for this campaign world decided on.  The campaign world will be called ÆTHERCOIL . Logo is in the world as we speak.

Part 1

I want to make some good content for this new Social Media, Minds.com, and I thought that I’d start with something I was going to do eventually: Create my own campaign world. I’m having this discussion open to everyone who plays Tabletop RPGs, especially the games that I’m in either as a player or a DM. I hope that I’ll have a discussion on what works and what doesn’t as I go along. If you want to put your two bits in, just sign up with Minds.com and join in with a comment. Unlike most Social Media sites, Minds.com respects your privacy, promotes your input as you work on it, and whatever or not it’s a plus for you, I don’t know, but infamous hacker group Anonymous supports this site.

I’m in the process of transferring from Google Plus to Minds as for my Social Media of choice, and this topic is as good as any for me to work on that. Also, when you create some input, and especially send me a map or a name, a person, a weapon, a business, or any other IP, you agree to let me us it with the Creative Commons “Attribution-Share Alike” License, which lets you keep ownership of the IP; you are just giving me permission to use it and give you a proper credit on what’s being used. (NOTE: Minds.com is still in alpha and way too buggy at this time, so instead of switching to Minds I’ll just stay with Google Plus for the discussion part. There’s a lot more people in there—and a lot less assholes—so I can have a decent group discussion, and I’ll get some feedback that I can actually use.)

Reference link: http://www.starwalkerstudios.com/gamemastersjourney/2015/5/18/game-masters-journey-e28-worldbuilding-1-brainstorming-big-picture-ideas

My goal here is to have a good starting point in the campaign world, preferably a module with a home base town, at least. I hope to have some grander scope of the world therein, with a global map and some countries, but for now, I want to start like how the Gamemaster’s Journy did, and give out some big picture ideas to hash out:

At this point, I might piss off some people by using Tropes. I’m doing it mostly to get my ideas across and we can always refine it in more detailed, and more original, as we go. I might also use some pre-created IP (Such as Blizzard’s Pandaren race) at first, and we will, at a later time, find an original alternative to what is being used, similar to TSR replacing ‘Hobbit’ with ‘Halfling’ after a couple editions of original D&D. This is as part of the worldbuilding as designing villages, creating NPCs and setting up a pantheon.

I’ll default on 5th Edition as far as systems go (and possibly incorporate their kid version of the game Monster Slayers); I have the three main books with me right now. But I hope to make the setting System Agnostic, where you can use your own system of choice with this setting.

Oh, and last but not least, you’re going to see a lot of Mind maps in this blog. It’ll be how I put all the ideas and notes I get into some resemblance of organization. For those who don’t know what a mind map is, they’re sort of the Outline’s twisted sister. You start with a central idea on a [preferably] large sheet of paper and you branch out any related thoughts in all 360 degrees around it. It has no set format or structure, and you don’t even have to use all text, you can add color, drawings, side notes, links and whatever else you need to put in there.

2015-07-15 02_22_46-SimpleMind Desktop

I’ll try not to make things too complicated as I go to the Big Idea list:

Item 1: Classic Fantasy meets the Age of Invention

In my customized version of the Forgotten Realms, the version I usually put in to spice my Encounter game up a bit, I included some of the earliest inventions of the modern world. This Faerun has their version of Tesla, Edison, Graham Bell, and all the other original inventors and invented their world’s version of radio, the printing press, telegraph wires, phonographs, and even started a couple steam-powered railroad system. There might even be the first official airplanes to go with the returning airships.

I have a perfect explanation to this: The Spellplague: When the normal use of magic went all to shit in the 4th Edition, people scrambled to find a way to recreate any needed effects. Thus, some wizards turned to artifice to replace some needed magic’s effects. Add the reality of some portals to other D&D worlds, such as Eberron, and the people of Toril find themselves at the start of their Steampunk era.

Once the Sundering happened, magic returned, but it couldn’t replace the inventions that appeared during its absence. Now you have a world that, while not Eberron, has some of its feel. It is still the Forgotten Realms in theme, but now it is experiencing the start of an age of high invention.

The biggest hurdle will have to be a readily available power source for all this electricity. You can expect Wood, Oil, and Coal to be a starter, and even though its use isn’t anywhere near the levels the real world achieved. (I say achieved because I believe that, in spite of Global Climate Change and the occasional catastrophe, the environment is actually improving in some parts of the world.) One campaign in this world would be the discovery and introduction of a form of Dragonshard as an alternative form of energy. Like something I thought up the other day, the Thorium Crystal: A semi-opaque quartz crystal with a glowing flame inside, cool to the touch in the open air, and can be transported safely in a dry condition, but put it in water and it heats up and boils the water, creating steam. Classic Phlebotinum, I know, but it does work.

Item 2: Post-Apocalyptic World Half Full

It is at least 200 years after a global collapse of the previous civilization. Nobody knows what might’ve triggered this Shit-Hits-The-Fan scenario, in truth it would be multiple origins—but the collapse happened within the matter of weeks. It had a clear start and an end, so much so that they’ll number their calendars from it.

I’ve written a real world example of this kind of scenario as, “Not just one thing, but a combination of doomsday scenarios: The Samson Option, populations plummeting by the lack of procreating couples, extremist-driven pogroms, environmental disasters, intercultural strife, economic collapse, SJWs on Twitter and Tumblr running out of people to burn the stake, the inability of people to see others from different walks of life as another human person, and the Cubs winning the World Series.

I’m only serious on the Cubs winning the World Series. For the lack of a better definition, for timeline purposes, I’ll call the calendar the Wrigley Reckoning. WR for short.

By the second century WR, the previous civilization has all but forgotten, the world falling into a new Dark Age. Cities fall into ruin, warlords and tribes rule the land; Huxley, Orwell, Atwood and all the other writers of dystopias have their fears realized in one form or another, and the knowledge and advancements of this current civilization have become lost.

However, it didn’t stay in this nadir setting. People start rebelling from these tyrannies. The effects of what caused the downfall opened up the world to fey-like beings, Anthro races, and monsters capable of laying cities to waste reappeared. This includes races long since extinct, like Dinosaurs. This also includes dragons, of course. The Earth had its own Sundering as Magic and Nature returned (for the first time) and transformed into a heroic fantasy setting. Global climate change, karmatic upheaval, and a nuke or two made connections to both the Feywild and the Shadowfell of this world. A group of benevolent kingdoms, run by a collection of princesses (see the next item) takes their stand to bring back civilization and dignity into the recovering world. Finally, people are exploring the lost cities to rediscover and reclaim the lost technology from the previous world, bringing back the first inventions with their own generation of the great inventors.

It is at this point, which I’ll set at 300 WR, as the starting point of this campaign world.

The world is overrun by evil, and darkness still covers most of the land, but there are those who believe that humanity (which is now a multi-racial term) has a more noble heart and soul, and while one person can only do so much, combined together they can rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.

Delios would love this setting. Even though it’s less Swords and Sandals and more Magic and Exploration.

As adventurers in this campaign, while they might be of different backgrounds, groups, nations, and callings, they are united by a single purpose, to make the world better than the day before, to be when they leave this world, it would be better than when they were born into it. They might become lords with their own kingdom, a wealthy champion of a rediscovered invention, the subject of tales and poems of valor and honor, or a humble and contented farmer destined to die in a bed with a belly full of wine and a wife and children holding his hand, but in any way they wish to make a mark that they’ll be proud of.

The main question here would be whatever or not to base this campaign world on the real world, with the current major cities lying in ruin and the new environment over the old one. I’ll leave that up for discussion—why I’m opening this post up in Google Plus in the first place. It would create an interesting spin in the real world reverting to a Middle Earth like place where the populace figuring out just what went pear shaped and how to keep a repeat from happening. That, and it’ll make some of the maps easier to make.

Item 3: Disneyian Princesses of the Round

In a game I designed called Revolver Princess, I created a fantasy world where a group of countries is governed by princesses who have grouped together in a coalition. They meet regularly as equals to further progress civilization for the betterment of every kingdom, not just their own. They kept the title of Princesses much like the Knights of Camelot use a round table: to designate themselves as equal members of a sisterhood. That’s an idea I’m porting to this campaign world.

Before I continue, let’s talk about how I define a Disney-style Princess. It’s different from what you’d might think of, especially if you have a jaded view of what they are. I basically take the idea of a beautiful, smart, powerful, and strong female ideal that these ladies are and crank them up to eleven. These ladies who are neither whiny spoiled brats or those who have little agency outside of waiting for her Prince to come. No no no, they might be wishing for a prince, but they’ll also be taking charge of a household, sneaking out on dances with an elaborate costume, exploring wildernesses, battling major foes a la Daenerys Targaryen—with requisite dragon! And while they would still appreciate being rescued, they hope that the rescuers don’t mind meeting them on the way out the door themselves, so they can turn around and team up with them to take out the big bad.

If this point is well received, I’ll make a list of these Princesses, who’ll start in the European region (or the equivalent thereof) and spread out to the other continents, including the Americas.

This will no doubt bring younger players into the campaign world and even learn how to play Tabletop Role Playing games with it. Many girls dream of being a princess, in here they can actually build their own kingdom. From scratch. (And they can even incorporate armor into a dress to boot.) Boys thirsting for an adventure that can fit their age bracket can find a great home world for their campaigns here, and it doesn’t even have to be all violence.

And since we’re definitely having a Noblebright theme going on…

Item 4: Experience gained by other means than violence

I’m not a big fan of the Milepost method of leveling up, mainly because I want to have the party see a running ‘score’ on how they’re doing. Also, I encourage the players to get out of the “Open Door, Kill Monster, Grab Treasure, Repeat” mentality. I want them to think outside of the box and reward them for doing other things than quests and combat.

I started this thinking with the “Nonviolent Resolution:” In an encounter, if a party deals with the situation without resorting to violence, that is, a single attack, they receive double the XP awarded.

In this campaign world, I expand on that thought. Any action that can be an improvement in the world around you, even if it’s not a completely altruistic action, even if it doesn’t go unpunished, will earn you a little bit of XP. Help someone on the side of the road? XP. Calm a frightened child during a traumatic event? XP. Help the research of another wizard, even if it’s sharing a note? XP. Feeding refugees by buying a whole cart of food? XP. We can go on throughout a multitude of things you might think of doing in real life but are unable to. You might not have the chance, or the ability, to change the world or at least a little part of it, in the real world. In here, not only can you do it, you can reach Level 20 doing it.

Item 5: Exploration is king, at least at the start

The campaign world has just begun, and although there are several city-states and small kingdoms already in the world, about 95% of the map is still yet to be discovered, or rediscovered when it comes to a fallen major metropolis. While there is still room for the inner city intrigue or mystery to solve, the basis of this first Era of the campaign world will be to explore the world. The discovery of ancient, or not-so-ancient, civilizations and technology; the discovery of allies and villains; the fleshing out of the landscape, politically and geographically, in what is currently a wilderness; finding out about fantastic beings and strange and new mysteries.

That will be the basis behind the first several campaigns set in this world. Most of it is exploring, the setting of the bad guys, establishing the major threats to the brightness of this new fledgling civilization, the occasional Dark Princess or Evil Queen (or at least, a Princess who wasn’t saved in time), whatever it takes to make things interesting.

A couple of these campaigns can be easily ported from other published campaigns: Two from 5th Edition, Lost Mine of Phandelver and Princes of the Apocalypse, can be easily ported into this campaign world, especially when you’re using the same system in the campaign world. (The Default ruleset is 5ed; and there should be ways to adapt other rulesets into it, right?) A third from Pathfinder that I wanted to try, Kingmaker, can be tweaked to tell a tale of a Princess who came to her own kingdom, after exploring a patch of wilderness and establishing her own homestead therein. I’m working on a variation of Kingmaker in a Play by Post format with 5ed Rules. I’ll keep you posted on that campaign’s progress.

I’ll also keep you posted on any suggestions that you made that helps me with this brainstorming process. I appreciate any and all input you can give me on this topic, and I’ll keep the discussion open in the Google Plus forums. I look forward to hearing from you.

Especially with a good brand name for this campaign world. Something Tesla themed.

What do you do with a Sleeping PC, part 2

Last week I started a thread asking for suggestions on what prankery to do with a player’s PC on the table while the player himself is away, either being late, or having to go to the john, or for any other reason. While I’m still open for suggestions, allow me to post up a list of suggestions, with references:

From me:

  1. The first one is what I call the “JigglypuffPUFF!” or the “Break Out the Magic Markers!” or the only part of the entire Pokemon franchise that I find actually funny. (IMHO, of course), where the PC wakes up with his face covered in black ink. I really should have Magic Markers available in the sundry items shops in my campaigns.
  2. Another depends on the other player’s sensibilities, where the sleeping PC gets his clothing and armor striped. Said PC can continue the session in his or her undies, in the buff, or for added humiliation, cross-dressed. If the PC is female, it’s fetish outfit time! (I doubt you’d want to be late knowing that your poor character is going to dungeon delve dressed like a Playboy Bunny, unless you actually like that you pervert, heh heh heh)
  3. And then there’s slipping a little local animal (provided that animal doesn’t have a poison or petrifying attack) into the offender’s sleeping bag, having the bard quietly walk up and blast out something from the First Four Black Sabbath albums (My personal favorite), dropping a lit firecracker next to his eardrum, and so on.
  4. Put shaving cream in one hand, and then tickle the PC on the forehead with a feather. Still-sleeping PC slaps what he thinks is a fly…with his hand full of shaving cream.

From Greg Johnston: Dip is hand in a bowl of warm water and watch the fun.

From William Fellars: You can always apply a little hair removal cream to the PC’s head or face… Just not the dwarf’s beard.

From Anchorite Gamer:

Tie boot laces

  1. glue weapon into scabbard
  2. removes all tips from the arrowheads
  3. replace spell component pouch items with non-spell components (flour, whatever); …..

That last one reminds me of a favorite prank in Deadliest Catch, the infamous Flour Bomb!

I can’t wait to pull something like that on my unsuspecting players.  Heh, heh, heh.

Any more suggestions will be appreciated, that random table’s growing very nicely.

Dreams of the Red Wizards recap 8 JUL 15

Trigger Warning: Spoilers, zombified sculptors, dungeon rooms set on fire.

Next week, thanks to Charter, I can actually stream some of these tables, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. I’m still having some issues with the OBS program that I’m trying to iron out. It’s a toss-up between AT&T being too fucking slow and the possibility of an AMD A8 not quite having enough power to do streaming. (Or am I just overthinking Blizzard’s Shenanigans with their own server problems, the bastards! There’s a reason why I put Pandarens in the Forgotten Realms!)

I got me a bunch of other players, enough for me to have several new players and hopefully have that steady group of regular players I need to get my online career going. I know of a couple already, including Kyle (who was still miffed at me turning his Encounters Character into an ochre jelly) and who I’m calling “The Other David” who is playing the Pandaren. I hope I get several others into the mix by the time I start streaming regularly. (Which will be this week, if all goes well.) IMHO, the biggest problem I have is having people go in and out of my table, usually to find out what I’m all about and how my table is, only to see them go (one of them in the middle of the session, which got me miffed.) However, I just chalked it up to being a rookie streamer. It is my first campaign, after all, and there has to be some hiccups and bugs to iron out before I have everything set. “Lessons learned on the path to Twitch popularity,” I called it.

On to the gameplay: I have the newcomers come in and joined those who were already in the basement of Harpshield Castle just as the big battle began, where the one who sculpted a copy of the Delimbiyr Bloke and took off with the original was found dead…only to have it pull a Walking Dead and stand up as a zombie, brought on by a necromantic Orc Shaman, who brought up the horde.

By now you know how I do zombies. You see one, there’s probably at least a dozen you don’t know about, and they’re not slow. They should be glad I took out the infection part.

After taking out the party, they proceeded to hunt some gricks—with one on the party actually thinking that Grick Eggs are edible, (Cue the eye roll, and five more Gricks chasing him) and doing a little bit of treasure hunting. They found a dead end first with some specters in a room with a small library of crumbling books. Which they almost set fire to. Fire in a dungeon with a high chance for backdraft. Not a good idea.

Fortunately, they put the fire out, and closed the door, before the extended rest.

I hope that the party can come back next week, the 16th, so I can get a proper schedule going, these calling sessions off because of a lack of players is getting on my nerves. Also, I wanted to see how Charter plays nice with Roll20 and Skype. Stay tuned for progress.

Encounters Recap 7 JUL 15

Before I begin, I needed to tell you that I had to switch Internet Services this weekend, going from AT&T to Charter. Charter’s Internet is known to be much faster in my town, which is needed for my streaming channel (I had to put that on hold because of the lack of bandwidth in AT&T) Now that I have the cable modem and router straightened out and everything’s back up to speed. I can move on to my posts:

Trigger Warning: Spoilers, Cursed PC’s, sudden Player vs Player, PCs actually dying!

Yes, I’ve been a very bad Dungeon Master this day. I almost pulled off the TPK. I told the gang on the table that this floor (Fane of the Eye) is going to be a bitch and I didn’t disappoint.

No, not the specters encounter, although I did remember the non-magical weapon resistance this time. I’m talking about the first instance of what I wanted to do since the Necromancer’s Lair: PVP Mode.

In room F19, there is a chamber with a statue of an amorphous body with tentacles, with a purple crystal inside it. According to the book, anyone who disturbs the crystal has the chance of being turned into an ochre jelly.

You can see where this is going by now.

Kyle’s character (the same one who also plays my Thursday VT) thought he would get prepared. He popped Mage Armor and had two clerics cast Shield of Faith on him, which I allow to stack. (Red Flag there, folks) So with a 20 plus AC, he decided to use Mage Hand to touch the crystal.

Hell yeah I trigger the curse. Besides, I wanted to try this PVP Mode out.

PVP Mode is a mechanic that I thought up whenever someone gets turned into a monster—such as an ooze…or maybe a zombie—and turns on the other players. Instead of taking the poor unfortunate Player’s character sheet and have him out of play, I decided to give him a little incentive:

I start up by modifying his character with three times the max HP, a little regeneration, three extra Action Points, two turns per round, and the ability to spend Action Points for additional reactions. The bad news is that he has to make a new Level 1 Character. The good news is that, for each PC he takes out—that is, reduces to 0 Hit Points—he gets to add a level in the character creation.   For the rest of the characters, those who are still standing after taking out the ‘monster,’ there isn’t going to be any math: Automatic Level up.

I have everyone roll initiative and sit back and watch the fun. And oh, what fun I had, watching the mayhem that went along with the party finding that their former smurf—yes, his character was the wild mage—turned into an ooze who turned on them…who still had Wild Magic…I know. He rolled on that Wild Magic table a couple more times before it was all over.

Oh, and remember that Death Note? According to the Rules in that thing, if I remember right; one, ownership of a Death Note can be temporarily gifted, and becomes official once the borrower writes someone’s name on it. And two, if the Death Note is destroyed, as if by a 12d6 fireball at max damage, the owner of the Death Note is killed!

Guess what happened to that Death Note? That’s right, it fried to a crisp, and Kyle’s character will die by the end of his turn…unless the Wild Magic table saves him.

Well, what happened at the end left my jaw—as well as several others—hanging. This is what he rolled:

91: If you die within the next minute, you immediately come back to life as if by the reincarnate spell.

When the smoke cleared, after the players wondered whatever or not munchining is a good idea on my table, Kyle’s character returned…as a half-orc! (I insisted that he roll the race of the character, according to the reincarnate spell. Two players end up with their PC’s ‘chunkied,’ so they have to roll up a new character, and everybody was either awestruck or cursing me off for this twist I gave them.

Oh yeah, and I also achieved my goal for the table in that they had to use their Scroll of Town Portal after that to recover. And get new characters into the party. Leaving me with plenty of time to restock the dungeons, move things around, and add some more twists into the mix. After all. It wasn’t just the Cult of Black Earth muking about in the Dessarin Valley.

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