Monday, November 8, 2010

Minutiae vs Moving On

I played in my bi-weekly Pathfinder game last night, and had a thoroughly good time with Dalan (my fire elementalist elf). However, as the night wore on it became obvious there was an unwelcome tension among some of the players, and one player in particular. There are 6 people in the group, with 2 of us being hard-core Paizo fans, 2 others (a husband and wife team, with the husband as GM) who are hard-core roleplayers who love Conan, 1 military tech, and a newbie to Paizo. It’s a group that came together randomly through a networking RPG website, so there’s a few bugs to work out.

One of the bugs that reared its ugly head was Minutiae. The GM enjoys his details, and often went on in length about a piece of attire, or the history and use of dye pigments discovered, etc. All very interesting on its own, but over a session it got a bit tiresome. Especially since we were on the move to a city we *really* wanted to reach, but had distractions/encounters along the way. Now, you can’t just gloss over the journey, because so many fun things can happen. But you also have to be aware of your players, and how interested they are in a GM’s descriptions. As I mentioned, one player was practically fidgeting in his seat from impatience.

Well, the end result for my group was that at the end of the session, as we packed up our things and congratulated each other on a fun session (which it was), I suggested that next time we try to fast-forward certain parts, or at least speed up some areas. I acknowledged that the GM did a great job, but rambled on sometimes. I also acknowledged that we (the players) shouldn’t rush to a destination just because we want to. By opening up the conversation, we could then discuss and negotiate where we were all comfortable.

No doubt this minor conflict happens in many groups. How much detail is too much? Does a group prefer set pieces, and screw the story in between? Maybe. The point is to compromise as a group and find your comfort levels. GMs put a lot of effort into getting ready for a game, and should be allowed to flesh out their world, and provide more depth to a story. Players should enjoy that ride. Just beware the danger of describing every single detail of a mundane item, for example.

As the famous quote goes: “Moderation in all things.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

100 years later

Continuing from my previous post, I was inspired to think about what would happen if the storyline were allowed to continue. Well, I advanced the world by roughly 100 years and wrote about what happened.

Western Melheim after 100 years from when the last incidents occurred:

The city of Salanch

After the followers of Pholtus fled back to “their” city, where the main temple to Pholtus was located, they started a pogrom against the wizards and sorcerers of Melheim. They believed that people had become lax in their monitoring of mages and arcane magic would re-surface. Their spellgun production was increased and soon they had squads of mage-killers on the prowl. However, sympathy had grown for mages after several powerful individuals helped stem the tide of undead in the north, and pushed back the Gruumsh orcs in the east. Pholtus became unwelcome outside of Salanch because of their attitude towards magic, elves, and their old allies the Halflings. They also became under siege in Salanch by an allied force. In retaliation, the clergy of Pholtus performed a series of miracles. First, they pushed back the sieging force with a tide of light, killing hundreds. Second, they raised the entire city on a disc of force so that it now rests in the air. Third, a shield of force was erected around the city, preventing aerial entry. Only clerics of Pholtus may pass the barrier, or create temporary openings. This self-imposed exile lasted several decades before small amounts of trade resumed. The city fed itself through magically creating food and extreme rationing. It also became law that the first child of every family must become a cleric of Pholtus.

When the city was raised, taking the first layer of sewers/underground with it, it exposed several layers of ancient ruins. Ironically, they contained promises of old human magic.

Salanch continues their pogrom, albeit secretly, finding and capturing/killing mages.

In the south

Abominations surged forth from the south, overwhelming the regular patrols and catching everyone by surprise. With most of the armies in the north and east fighting undead and orcs, the Halflings were suffering large losses. In a major show of force, the elves in Lantern Woods and underground surged to the surface again and slaughtered the abominations. Thankful for their aid, most cities accepted their return and let them stay on the surface.

In the north

There were indications of undead coming from the north over a period of time. Groups of adventurers kept them in check for the most part until a section of the force wall came down. The north had apparently prepared for this moment and a large army of mindless undead, led by a hierarchy of sentient undead, invaded. It was only through an alliance of humans, both the seafarers and the barbarians, magic users, and other races that it was possible to defeat the undead. The northern resistance movement, a grim band of survivors from the northlands, were pivotal in breaking the leadership of the north, allowing the mindless undead to be picked apart. The gap in the north still exists, and although it is constantly monitored, undead still manage to come through. The resistance, now the authority in the north, along with southern volunteers, continue to scour the lands clearing out the powerful sentient undead.


The port city lay under siege by the seafaring humans 100 years ago. However, their assault was intended to seek out and kill several powerful individuals who were playing with their destiny. Once the conspiracy was uncovered, a truce was formed between the sea humans and the merchants of Bacull. The sea humans exchanged their technology and their magic with the city and became a permanent fixture. When the undead surged from the north, Bacull was at the forefront of the battle. When water undead began attacking coastal regions, the sea humans fought them as well. Now the waters of the undead lands are also patrolled by the sea humans.

Bacull has grown almost double in size in the past 100 years because of the influx of sea humans. Mixed races are a significant percentage of the population, and the Meld race has proven hardy. Sea human vessels have recently begun reporting strange ships on the horizon, who always seem to vanish when investigated.


It essentially remains the same, producing goods and weapons. The orcs here remain loyal to Kord, and helped fight their Gruumsh cousins from the east. The passageway through the force wall still holds importance and remains guarded.

In the East

Working with goblins and their god, Gruumsh, orcs from the east were able to penetrate the force wall within the mountains. They poured forth from holes in the hills and pillaged small villages in the east before sacking and burning the town of Mellar’s Crossing. The horde intended to keep going east, but was defeated by a combined force of Forgetalon troops, human barbarians and sorcerers, and the holy army of the church of Kord (led by its champion Grekk, raised from the dead). The gaps the orcs and goblins had created in the mountains were not all found, so a new organization was formed, the East Watch, to regularly patrol the eastern range and close any gaps found.


Eventually, after these waves of invasions, it was discovered that a few minor deities and Gruumsh had conspired to bring down portions of the force walls and let their chosen through. It was to be a test of their armies before more walls, in other pockets of land, were brought down. Western Melheim was deemed the weakest area because of conflicting politics, etc. With their plan thwarted, the deities have withdrawn for now. Their plan was discovered by powerful adventurers travelling to the outer planes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An old campaign world I may resurrect

The world itself has no name, but for the sake of consistency on my part, let's call it Myern. Heh.

The continent that my old players were on was called Hurshen, and their little playground was called Western Melheim. Eastern, Northern, and Southern Melheim were all seperated, but I'll get into that in a second. Distance, relative to maps, etc, was a little off, as the campaign world was meant for flavour and not geographical realism. I'll start off with a history of the world and why things were as they were. Yes, I realize there may be gaping holes in the storyline, but they didn't matter at the time ;)

The (Brief) History of Myern.
A few centuries before, Humans and Elves of powerful cities grew too powerful with their magic. Something happened, a feud, a battle of egos, resource quibbling, no one really knows, but a war erupted between the two races, their magic ripping across the continents and rending the earth and sky. It took divine intervention to stop the chaos. Both humans and elves got holy retribution upon their races, as the gods came down and destroyed all the powerful mages and their cities. The human and elven deities protested at first, but when they realized the world, and potentially their own positions were at stake they acquiesced. Because of this their power has greatly weakened.

The gods who allied to crush human/elven kind were varied: dwarf, halfling, orc (who gladly joined to "righteously" kill elves), and various other demi-human pantheons. Human/Elven magic and magical items were gathered and destroyed, yet there is a constant search for items that crop up still. [If found they are to be delivered to a temple and destroyed. There are also frequent “Mage Hunts”, where suspected wizards are rounded up checked. The end result of “Mage Hunts” depends on the hunting race. Good-usually the mages are registered and/or ‘neutered/gentled’. Mages can be offered a job, or slavery. Both involve the same work, but slavery would mean the cutting of the tongue and one hand to prevent spellcasting. They are put in ‘factories’ where they make useful magic items, such as spellguns. The volunteers would build the weapons and the slaves would write out the scroll ammunition. [Small scrolls rolled into a metal cartridge, put into a shotgun-esque firearm. The scroll is the ‘gunpowder’, used up in the discharge, the casing flies out for re-use]. Evil-they are sacrificed to the gods. /end tangent]

Deities also feared the re-kindling of humanity and elvenkind, so they constructed holy barriers of force between certain regions of the world to prevent widespread movement (i.e. expansion/coordination) for humanity and to contain the more powerful magics of the elves. New mountain ranges were also created, with the force barriers cutting through these, to help the containment. Dwarves, halflings, and orcs were given the task of guarding these borders against Humans/Elves by their deities. Dwarves obey dutifully by essentially being shepherds, firmly but gently the remnants of humanity. Orcs, true to their nature, were brutal warlords and overseers. Slavery is not uncommon in their areas. They are allowed to bring/use these slaves in other areas, as long as they are treated decently. The slave’s conditions are watched over carefully by the other races. The clergy are allowed to buy the freedom of the slaves at a premium. Orcs make most of their currency this way.

During the period of upheaval, as orcs help protect everyone else from the elves and humans, they realized the power of their strength and the power of cooperation thanks to Clerics of Kord, who performed many miracles of strength. The orcs were so impressed they all converted to Kord. He attained Greater God status with the orcs worship. While they still can be cruel, orcs are no longer evil at heart. Gruumsh' power waned and now he longs to slaughter his betraying creations. Gruumsh has turned his attention to the goblins, usurping their usual deities. Halflings guard the forest and plains (along with various other demi-humans) and keep an eye on the elves. They prefer to be nomadic, checking on locations far and wide for trouble. These races can freely roam between the barriers, if given permission by whoever is guarding them. High-level clerics can create gateways between the barriers, thus ensuring goods, skills, and culture to cross the world. However, after all these centuries, gaps are appearing in the barriers….

What have humans elves been up to?

Humans have degenerated into barbarian tribes, some roaming their penned areas, others establishing rough villages. The use of magic is rare and evokes fear, because of the past. Humans wander, and trade, and seem content with their new lifestyle. Their deities have not strongly interfered in their daily affairs. The clerics are almost shamans, but don’t have the strong tie to nature. Only clerics are literate. Sorcerers occur more frequently, since magic is in their blood. Sorcerers usually have their magic enhance their battle prowess.

Humans have also taken to the sea; one whole subset of humanity is a sea-faring folk, living on huge floating towns. They haven’t degenerated into savages, but live on technology and their wits. They are the continent traders, since the force barriers do not extend into the sea, and although they are valued for their ability to trade, they are still monitored.

Elves population numbers are extremely low and they fight a constant battle against all other races. Magic is natural to them, and they continue to study and teach it. Most have gone underground and established small enclaves in the open caves. The creatures below don’t care as much about the demands of the gods. These elves remain much the same, albeit slightly paler. They can come out into the natural sunlight with no penalty. Elves are on the run from most races. They actively pursue magic and want to expand their power again. They occasionally ride across the open world trying to locate lost cities (both elven and human) and loot the magical wealth within. On these rides they are in danger from all sides since their presence is hard to hide. Many hunts have happened during these rides. Elves have become more aggressive and violent because of the apparent genocidal plans of the other races. Elven deities have disappeared from the pantheons since the Cleansing. They were appalled at what happened (even after helping) and also went underground, to help protect their kind.

Filling in the gap of the city populations are the mixed races. During the brief period when some races were allied, lots of inter-breeding went on. Humans who were against their magic-using brethren fought alongside the dwarves and orcs, and their off-spring are the half-orcs and half-dwarves. Half-elves have always been around, though their numbers are less. Because centuries have passed since the wars, the mixed races are not as numerous as they were and now seem almost fully human/dwarven/orcish. Yet they all live together in relative harmony in their cities. Occasionally they breed with full humans, dwarves, etc, and bring in new blood to their lineage

The clergy and their temples often preach against the evils of magic, and the benefits of the divine. Divine potions and other magical items are available, for the right price (and of the proper faith). People are devout, but not fanatics. The mixed races can choose any deity they wish, and do so without undue pressure.

A major threat to everyone is the hordes of magical creatures that roam the continents. These warped monstrosities were brought into being by the power of human and elven magic in ages past. Somehow they have bred and survived, even spawning new kinds of monsters (minotaurs -humans and bulls-, gnolls -humans and dogs-, lizardfolk -humans and lizards-, bugbears -humans and orcs-, etc). The people sometimes go on crusades, with the blessing of all the deities, to eliminate these abominations. They were not created by the gods and thus must be removed.

Since continents and areas within continents are blocked off, people live in relative peace. The primary danger comes from the roaming monstrosities, who always seem to come back. The elves, being underground and free to improve magic, may well become a threat as they slowly gain back power.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Power of names

Names are funny things. They have such power, and not just in the mythological/magical sense where if you know the name of something you can control/summon/kill it. (Sidenote: Speaking of the power of names, the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is excellent and highly recommended.) I’m referring more to the mundane power of a name simply sticking in your head. Likely it comes from associating it with emotion, or a positive/negative experience. But sometimes it’s because you think the name just sounds cool.

Take my obsession with Myern, for example. Originally it was a made up name for a homebrew campaign of mine. The name belonged to a tyrannical city-state that espoused law and order, through any means necessary. Unlike most fascist states, though, they did not discriminate based on race. Everyone was equal before the law (those in power were more equal, obviously).

On a slight tangent: The homebrew campaign was built around the sandbox premise, where major locations were marked on a hand drawn map, and the players could go where they will. Or rather, after a couple of levels, they could go where they wanted. We played through a few of the original 3.0 adventures. Namely the flawed, but classic, The Sunless Citadel and the great final battle in The Forge of Fury. My wife just started playing DND and those adventures were a fun way to introduce her to the mechanics.

From then on, whenever I have the opportunity to make a city again, or a realm, I likely choose the name Myern. Only the name is the same, the internal workings of the city (i.e. tyrannical rule) are not necessarily used. The name Myern resonates with me and breathes life into the location. I’ve used it in the Battlemaster online text wargame for a realm I created (and then abandoned when the character got bored with it), I’ve used it in other campaigns, and now I use it for my blog.

If I ever get the opportunity to buy a large plot of land, you can bet I’ll name it Myern.

What (fantastical, self-created) names resonate with you?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making new characters

I always enjoy making characters, regardless of the game system. Something about piecing things together and making a whole makes me excited. Maybe it harkens back to my lego (the old school lego, you know with the blocks, not the specialized bits that only make 1 object) days. Sometimes I start with a mechanical/rules idea, whether it’s just a race, or a class, and sometimes I have a personality, quirk or trope that I want to play.

I’m starting in a new group and we’re going to play using the Pathfinder system, but we’ll be playing a homebrew rather than an adventure path. I had two concepts I wanted to play, one being a cleric of Desna and the other being a wizard. Just a wizard. Any old wizard would do. I much prefer magic, whether divine or arcane, to a melee fighter or roguish character. Well, the more I focused on the wizard, the more I wanted to partly recreate a previous wizard I had played back in Japan. That wizard was a fire elf named Dalan Cinderroot, living in the city of Chauldron, where the Shackled City Adventure Path takes place. Being a sensualist by nature, he was thoroughly enjoyable to role-play. Having the trait, “Touched in the Head”, and therefore being slightly ‘odd’, was an additional thrill. As warned by the creators, Shackled City is a real meat-grinder, and Dalan lived through plenty of challenges, but had a blast until we stopped playing at 8th level. Damned moving back to Canada! Heh.

I had a desire for Dalan to live again, although not the true Dalan, for he must remain in stasis until a miracle happens and the campaign renews (hint: this will never happen, but all gamers hold on to the hope that a favourite character will rise again). No, the new Dalan would be built using some basic blocks. An elf. Check. A wizard. Check. Fire is involved in there somewhere. Check. The name ‘Dalan’. Check. And there we go. Okay, some of you may argue there’s no relationship, but as I said, it’s rough ;)

Dalan was built using the Advanced Player’s Guide new Elemental School for wizards. Fire School, obviously. Here is his background:

Dalan, Elf Wizard (Fire Elementalist, Opposition element = Water) Familiar: Raven, goes by the name of Ka, and it speaks Ignan (language of fire creatures). Ka’s eyes burn red and have wisps of flame.
When Dalan was a child, a rampaging druid had summoned multiple fire elementals to destroy a forest and the elven village within. Dalan was caught in the assault, and was grabbed by an elemental, leaving massive scars on his upper legs, torso and upper arms. Elven mages fought back and quenched the fire elementals, but the one holding the dying Dalan, in fear of its existence (since elemental’s souls and bodies are one, so if the body dies the soul is gone, no resurrection possible for them), merged with Dalan as they both died, re-lighting the boy’s spark of life with its own. From that moment on, Dalan has had a love/hate relationship with fire. He wears bandages/wrappings around his upper legs, torso and upper arms at all times, covering scars which look vaguely like Ignan runes. The scars glow at night with a faint redness, although not enough to provide illumination.

Boy with the baboon heart, may I introduce elf with the fire elemental merged soul.

Dalan’s raven familiar is essentially also harbouring some fire elemental essence. Once Dalan reaches 5th level he’ll take the Improved Familiar feat and the raven will combust into a small fire elemental. It will be the same fire elemental that burned younger Dalan, reborn. Yeah, I look forward to playing him.

The other players in the group are:
Brom, a dwarven cleric of Abadar, who initially worshipped Aroden until that deity died. The dwarf was in denial for decades before he began worshipping Abadar. The dwarf is middle-aged, but “starting over” at 1st level.

Valeria, a half-elf ranger, wandering the lands looking for her elven father.

Ragnar, a half-orc fighter from Cheliax, young and brash.

It should be a fun group and some good times. The DM loves playing Conan d20, so I expect lots of big fights, and little magic. I’ll update again after this Friday, when our first play session begins.


Sunday, August 29, 2010


I am moving dwellings again, from a 1-bedroom to a 2-bedroom apartment with some other perks like in-suite laundry. The packing is going on right now and being on the computer while looking at a stack of boxes makes me feel lazy...and anxious. Meh, it'll get done. Famous last words, heh.

Moving got me to thinking about RPG villains and their lairs. Monsters like their lairs and likely won't move for any reason, even when they are attacked and barely fend off the things with pointy sticks and fireworks. While it could be argued that because the monster won, it feels dominant and secure in its lair, if it was badly wounded I would say that it retreats at least temporarily.

As for intelligent villains, wouldn't it be fun for adventurers to stumble into their lair during a move? Either moving in or moving out. The obstacles of stacked crates, jumbled furniture, and re-discovered junk or treasure could be fun for an encounter. Or, better yet, the PCs find out the villains lair, break in only to find everything gone, and they have to do more research to track them down.

Real life inspiration for in game frustration. Used sparingly of course.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I just saw Ronin again on TV. Boy, that's a wonderful movie. Good pacing, great acting, great script, and awesome car chase scenes. Great chemistry between Jean Reno and Robert DeNiro, too.

Jean Reno was in another movie I love, Leon, another classic action movie. Gary Oldman is at his manic best as the drugged up bad guy cop. Reno is marvelous to watch as the kind-hearted assassin. I won't go near the Natalie Portman aspect ;)

Great action movies explode from the screen, but also make you think a little. Good ones are entertaining, but you can switch your brain off as you watch. Give me a great action movie any day.