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Alignment in D&D and similar FRPs is an oft-maligned subject.
For the Swords & Sorcery-styled World of Weirth campaign I am looking for some over-arching tensions to drive the plots and dramas of the setting.
I do not like the “Alignment as personality profile” school, nor do I want to get into the issues of “Objective” Good and Evil.
A while back I read Three Hearts and Three Lions, an Appendix N book that is part of the source material for the concept of Alignment in D&D.
This passage, in particular, strakes me as very good starting place:
” ‘Hum, hum, ‘tis vurra strange talk, though in truth—why, this makes me think ye maun be o’ the Chaos forces yerselves.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Holger respectfully. ‘I’m ignorant of your affairs here. Could you explain?’
He let the dwarf growl on for a long time without learning much. Hugi wasn’t very bright, and a backwoodsman as well. Holger got the idea that a perpetual struggle went on between primeval forces of Law and Chaos.
No, not forces exactly. Modes of existence? A terrestrial reflection of the spiritual conflict between heaven and hell? In any case, humans were the chief agents on earth of Law, though most of them were so only unconsciously and some, witches and warlocks and evildoers, had sold out to Chaos. A few nonhuman beings also stood for Law. Ranged against them was almost the whole Middle World, which seemed to include realms like Faerie, Trollheim, and the Giants—an actual creation of Chaos. Wars among men, such as the long-drawn struggle between the Saracens and the Holy Empire, aided Chaos;
under Law all men would live in peace and order and that liberty which only Law could give meaning.
But this was so alien to the Middle Worlders that, they were forever working to prevent it and to extend their own shadowy dominion.”
Poul Anderson, Three Hearts and Three Lions, P. 31
Not much in the way of mechanics, but it creates an aesthetic. Law is the “mode of existence” that emphasises peace, order and liberty, while Chaos is the “shadowy” opposite.
Law/Order – Chaos/Entropy
Defining the qualities of Law and Chaos, based on the quote above, I’ve come up with the following:
|Qualities of Law||Qualities of Chaos|
These descriptors, then, provide a framework for oppositional forces:
Civilization vs Wilderness
Cooperation vs The Law of the Jungle
Thus the alignment of a character (or culture, society or even a nation) can be quantified by the level of adherence to the descriptive qualities.
Mechanical/In-Game Effects of Alignment
Much like Ability Scores, I feel that the Alignment characteristic of a character should have meaning. One’s stance on the issues should not only have an effect on role-play, but on other aspects of the game. There should be mechanical descriptions for how alignment has an effect on the world (and vice versa), also for spellcasting, use of magic items, interactions with supernatural entities and the Reaction Table.
The Alignment Stat
Alignment will be categorized as a continuum from Complete Law on the left and Utter Chaos on the right, with numerical scores of +6 to -6. A score of 0 indicates Neutrality, though not of the indifferent sort, rather fully engaged in keeping either side from becoming too powerful. A state of desire toward balance.
Humans and other mortal creatures would occupy the central area of the continuum, being able to have a wide leeway of disposition toward Law or Chaos.
The immortal creatures, and the Titans in particular, would have even stronger dispositions for Law and Order, but little or no inclination for balance.
Further up the pyramid of power, the gods themselves would be strongly Lawful or Chaotic, and there are definitely gods that seek to maintain the balance between the great forces.
At the top we have the Elder Gods, depicted as the personification of Chaos, which Appendix N tell us dwell in the Outer Darkness, perhaps even beyond our space-time. To maintain a balanced continuum this implies the existence of Elder Gods that personify the concept of Law (as Moorcock does in the Elric cycle), dwelling in a “place” called the Inner Light.
As you can see by the arrangement of possible scores, the magnitude of Lawful-ness or Chaotic-ness of a being increases as it becomes more powerful. The behavior of some immortals and many gods will be inscrutable to mortals, as they cannot conceive of the scope of their stance on Law and Chaos. Likewise the extremes possible to the Elder Gods is beyond the conception of mortals and immortals, even some of the gods.
The very far ends of the continuum represent a kind of fixed-state orderliness for Law and a completely formless void for Chaos, utterly incomprehensible to any but the greatest of the Elder Gods.
The Mechanics of Alignment
As mentioned above, the position upon the continuum of alignment should have an in-game effect on things like spellcasting, use of magic items, interactions with supernatural entities and the Reaction Table. I’ll add Sanity checks to this list.
Note: L2 breaks the patterns a bit by being somewhat self-righteous of their discipline and need for order.
|Fate Point Mod
Rows = Party A Alignment
Columns = Party B Alignment
Mundane vs Mundane Encounters
Mechanical Alignment Changes
Being Corrupted and Failing Sanity Checks moves your PC one-half step toward Chaos on the Continuum.
During each adventure session the GM will assign a rating to determine if a PC’s alignment is shifting due to their behavior.
Alignment languages are not precisely languages at all. Rather they are sets of customs and traditions, or cultural markers, that people of a similar stance will recognize. These could be words, quotations, aphorisms, body language or gestures:
- Tipping your hat to a stranger
- Knuckling your forehead to a superior
- Saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes
- Spitting in someone’s direction
- Using formal or elaborate greetings/honorifics
- Failing to use formal or elaborate honorifics
- Making religious/arcane symbols or gestures
- How or what color of hat/sash/scarf, dagger, etc is worn
- Patterns or amounts of jewelry, tattoos, decorations, accessories
(I’ve been working on this off and on for a few days. Having trouble getting my thoughts together on it…)
Having been away from the RPG hobby for a while, I missed the advent of the Difficulty Class mechanic. Catching up on blogs and articles has been illuminating. There is a good deal of discourse about whether Ability scores are even needed, as one can just jot down the bonus/penalty modifier.
Bomgard the Wizard needs to make an Intelligence check at DC 15, what his score? Plus two.
It doesn’t matter if his INT is 14 or 15, his modifier is +2.
And, yes, I get it. It makes for a uniform style of d20 roll across categories, where you are always trying to roll equal to or above the “target number”. Core mechanic and all that modern design thinking. No more THAC0. No more subtract AC from 20 to get the Target Number. (Which isn’t precisely how THAC0 works. THAC0 is the target number, which is achieved by rolling a d20 + modifiers (STR, Weapon Type, etc) + AC (descending AC, that is!). If this result is equal to or greater than the THAC0 target, you hit. Leaving Level out of the equation allows for varying rates of progression.)
Why I Don’t Like the Idea of DC
As I see it, the DC does not save a step. There isn’t any math involved in the Ability Check mechanic. Perhaps this is just my Old-School way of thinking (which pre-dates Non-Weapon Proficiencies or Skills or Feats) in that Ability Scores mean something. If a Fighter with an 18 STR needs to make a check for an activity against his STR he has a 90% chance of succeeding. Because all STR-related things are essentially easy for a person with 18 STR.
Which leads to my “first impression problem” with DC, in that the Target Number is the same for everyone regardless of the Ability Score. A party member is trapped under a fallen beam from a cave-in. You need to make a STR check to lift the beam and let her out. A PC with an 18 STR has a 40% better chance of success than a PC with a STR of 10. Even if you modify the roll, by saying it is a HARD task and assign a -3 penalty, as the penalty applies to both characters.
Looking at the same scenario in a DC format, a “Hard” DC is a target of 15 (STR), so the PC with the 10 STR needs to roll a 15+ to move the beam (30% chance of success). A PC with a strength of 18 has a +3 modifier to their roll, making their target roll 12. For a 45% chance of success.
That certainly changes things! Looking at Ability Scores from the POV of overcoming the challenge by way of the DC certainly does seem to make the idea of an Ability Score (rather than just a modifier) obsolete. But changing the methodology to accommodate a perceived need for a standardized “Core Mechanic” fundamentally changes the math. I believe it also changes the experience of play, and not in a good way.
There is a Q&A discussion on Stackexchange about who invented the DC mechanic, and I think there is an illuminating quotation to be pulled:
Peter Adkison — who had previously left third edition design work to Bill Slavicsek and a group of ex-TSR employees — decided to write a basic philosophy for the new edition that would guide future work. […] He called for a new game that would keep the feel of the original D&D rules, but would throw out things that didn’t make sense. He also named Wizards of the Coast RPG head Jonathan Tweet as the new leader of the third edition project. […]
“Throw out things that don’t make sense”
In my opinion there is nothing nonsensical about having a Roll-under mechanic and a Roll-over mechanic in the same game.
5e merely retains the idea of Ability Scores for the purpose of generating a Bonus Number to be applied to a DC roll. That is perfectly fine, as the designers have decided to throw out the idea of Ability Scores having a mechanical effect on the game. The next, obvious step is to eliminate or reduce the variety of Abilities, perhaps to just Physical and Mental categories, ranging from -3 to +3. This would certainly streamline the entire mechanical process, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view.
Obviously, with the proliferation of “rules-lite” and “one-page” systems, there is a market for streamlined gaming mechanics. (Some of these folks would likely have a stroke if confronted with Rolemaster or Rogue Trader!) That just isn’t for me. I like the idea of having a variety of Ability Scores, and for those scores to mean something, to have a mechanical effect.
Why I Like the Idea of a Difficulty Level
Having said all that, I will say I believe there is a place for the DC (or DL) concept. The ever-entertaining and insightful Professor Dungeonmaster, on the Dungeoncraft YouTube channel, has an excellent idea for using DCs in a dungeon setting, as a zone effect. A good example is in the Hobgoblins! video where he describes how he has developed the idea from Index Card RPG.
The good professor divides his dungeon into zones, based on a common DC for all of the rooms, traps, encounters, etc.
I do like the idea that some rooms or areas in a dungeon are just harder to deal with than others. Gas, magic, the presence of environmental effects like flooding, all can be fun ways to increase the challenge for your party. Applying a blanket modifier for an area or zone makes perfect sense in this context.
“The tunnel floor descends slowly toward the sound of rushing water. Ahead of you the floor becomes wet, then covered with a thin layer of water that grows deeper as you go on. Soon you are up to your knees in cold, foul-smelling water. Your torch illuminates yet more water in the tunnel ahead of you, and the sound of rushing water gets louder.”
All actions and activities (that could be hampered by knee-deep water) in the flooded tunnels are at -2 to success.
This makes for a cool challenge. It is also very easy to indicate on a map, or as a bullet-point in a room or area description. It also has the benefit of not changing the mathematical relationships between characters of differing Ability Scores.
Another feature of a Difficulty Level mechanic is that it can be used to ramp-up the challenges as a party descends deeper into a dungeon. If the pernicious and inimical effects of a Mythic Underworld grow as the party goes deeper, you can increase the challenge with a modifier of (Dungeon Level – Character Level = DL). Thus, a party of second-level adventurers descending to the fourth level of a Mythic dungeon find their actions and activities hampered (-2 to all rolls) by their inexperience with the oppressive nature of the dungeon itself, while a party of fifth-level delvers would have no additional problems.
Controversy? Or Non-troversy?
Let me know what you think in the comments!
All five players have two 0-level Apprentices for this adventure. A quick trip to help guard a merchant who is looking for a witch in the swamp. Should be easy…
The journey begins with the 10 of you setting out in four canoes, first thing in the morning. The sun is just rising, illuminating the docks of Portasbol and there is a light mist or fog rising from the river.
There are three men at the docks to see your party off, a Telantean that Shavaligan addresses as “Master Ploon” and two others in long, dark robes. These have their hoods pulled up, their hands tucked into their sleeves, so you are unable to tell anything about their identity. While you were helping load the canoes you passed near them, they had an aroma of sweet spices, like cinnamon, but something else, too. (James’ char Shavanoxil thinks it’s Black Lotus!)
Shavaligan and two of her personal guards are in the first canoe, along with some bales, amphorae and bundles of supplies. Four amphorae – three good red wine, one brandy, a chest with 100 SP, a pouch with 20 GP, a wooden stick (about 14 inches long of a dark red wood that is hard as a rock – Bloodwood, for making a wand, worth 200 GP) wrapped in linen and inside a leather wrap.
The rest of you are split up into the other canoes, one of which has a bundle of torches wrapped in oilcloth, two coils of rope, a bag of wooden stakes, four ten-foot-long tentpoles and two folded sailcloths. The third canoe has two sealed amphorae (about 2 gallons each), some folded wooden contraption, and two baskets with bedrolls. The fourth canoe has four passengers.
Morning Watch – The weather is cool and cloudy, with rumbles of thunder. Paddling downstream, you make good time. From time-to-time you see carts and wagons and short caravans on the river road on the east bank of the river. All of the traffic seems to be going south, toward Laralasbol.
Mid-day Watch – Line of dark clouds blow up, light rain for about 30 minutes. Something large surfaces and roils the water between the second and third canoes, making a small splash. It surfaces again, this time to the west of the fourth, closer than before. Whatever it is swims beneath the canoe and rams it!!
Baxagos is dumped out of the canoe, into the water, he doesn’t know how to swim!!
She is able to kick away, allowing Baxagos to grab the side of the canoe. He pulls himself in as others in the other canoes ready their weapons. Spears are jabbed and an arrow fired, to no apparent effect. Shadoravan is pushing Bax toward the boat when she is scraped by the scythe-like pincer-mouth of the creature!
Baxagos is able to climb into the boat, followed by Shadoravan, with some help from Anbjorg – who grabs her under her arms and hauls her bodily into the canoe. She is hurt, and Irganos is not much help.
Deprived of its meal, whatever the creature was, it seems to vanish in the murk.
Afternoon Watch – During this watch the little flotilla reaches the fork of the Jovaan and you swing north, going upstream. After about a mile there is a ford, where the river broadens out into a wide, rocky-bottomed pool about four feet deep, you can see the bottom clearly. There are hexes and poles galore on either side of the river here. Just a mile upstream, you can see on the north bank, the skeletons of two humans, headless, picked clean and bleached by the sun.
Evening Watch – As the sun begins to descend, Shavaligan directs her canoe to the northern shore. You all beach the canoes and begin setting up camp. The two guards start putting up hexpoles and possibly laying out a Circle of Protection.
She directs you all to find the food and cooking supplies in her canoe, start a fire and get to work on a hot meal. She takes the wooden contraption from the canoe and sets up a chair and a small table.
Shavaligan directs two of you in setting up the fly tents and the rest in starting a fire and heating rice and dried meat for dinner.
Shavanoxil helps bandage up Shadoravan, but is dismissive and rude about it.
Dinner is good and uneventful. More clouds and lightning on the southern horizon at sunset. Shavaligan writes some notes or something in a small codex, then sends her guards to their bedrolls. She will take her first watch with Anbjorg, Roinseach, & Irganos. The rest of the watch is uneventful.
Midnight Watch – One man-at-arms, Gonuxal and Shadoravan are awakened for the dog watch. It is cloudy, so no stars or moons. Right around midnight a large owl with a snake in its talons lands on the edge of the firelight and eats the snake. Gonuxal grabs his writing implements and draws a sketch of it.
Predawn Watch – The second guard Shazoruval and Baxagos are awakened for the last darkwatch. The guard is lonely and likes to talk about his family (three children and a lovely wife who adores him but isn’t as pretty as his brother’s wife or the neighbor to the west’s wife) About an hour before sunrise, three meteors streak across the sky, one after the other.
Baxagos gets down on his knees to pray to his god!
Morning Watch – As you all arise for breakfast and pack up the camp, you can see dark clouds begin to gather on the horizon to the South. As you go to re-load the canoes, you discover that there are a bunch of large frogs hiding under them. During the loading an enormous fish bursts from the water, attempting to bite the party member closest to the water. Momentarily startled, everyone attacks! Either with missile weapons or melee, Shava and Bax score hits!
Gonuxal runs down alongside the giant fish, waving a sausage. The fish twists and bites him on the arm, fairly savagely. But it is unable to get a good grip and it flops back into the water.
Shavaligan appears, as if from nowhere, to aid and assist Gonuxal, taking him to her table and treating his wound with ointment.
The Men-at-arms guard the shoreline, with spears braced, while the boats are re-loaded. You shove off, just a bit behind schedule.
Mid-day Watch – While continuing to paddle (mostly) north or east, Shavaligan has been consulting a map, and having a running conversation with her guards about where they were on the map. How much farther to go? Where was the ruined village?
Suddenly, on the south bank, you can see a handful of huts on stilts poking up out of the marsh. The trees around here are all cypress, covered in hanging moss, but looking dead, without any leaves of their own. As you get closer, the fitful breeze dies down, bird and insect noises stop. The silence is deafening.
At the very edge of the abandoned-looking village there is a mound rising from the water. It is covered with dirt and has a few scraggly-looking saplings. At the top of this mound is a human shape, laying on the ground, propped against a small tree.
Shavaligan shouts, and points toward shore.
You all row your boats to the mound and beach them. Upon leaping out onto the shore, you discover it is soft, sucking mud!
Shadoravan and one of the men-at-arms fall face-first into the mud. The group staggers to dry land, with Roinseach among the fist, she runs up the hill to the tree line to observe. Shava joins her, just in time to see four bizarre creatures flying toward them on bat-like wings. They have bodies like empty wineskins and long, sharp beaks like wading birds. Shava runs back to the group, still in or near the mud, yelling. The creatures flutter around Roinseach, but seem to get in each other’s way! She is unscathed.
The party members on the land fire arrows or, like Baxagos, run toward the creatures. One falls to Roinseach’s spear, another to an arrow, but the third attacks Bax, gripping his waist and jabbing its proboscis deep into his belly!
Another party member joins the fray, smashing a blood-sucker out of the air, while Bax struggles vainly to pull the monster from his abdomen. It continues to suck out his lifesblood. Shadoravan is able to finally run forward and pierce the final creature with her spear, spilling blood and ichor everywhere.
Bax falls to the ground, gravely injured, and three party members attempt to assist in bandaging him up. Shava is strangely unhelpful, once again.
As the party re-groups and scans the area, they hear a rustling in the leaves, looking up they see branches swaying in the wind. But there is no wind…
Portasbol and the Cemetery Exploration
The party has arrived at Portasbol (Port-town) and are setting up camp with the Caravan in the space allotted outside the walls, yet well-protected with fetishes and sigils.
Epaph takes the lead in setting up camp, while Herthrudr goes into town on some business.
Kalder and Lieres decide to go for a stroll, Oxardozius stays with Epaph to set up. They wander through the camp, coming across the fellow who received the box from the alleged ghost on the trail a couple of nights ago. The man’s wife loses her patience and sells the box to the pair for 6 GP, rather than the 10 he was asking.
Coming to the end of the encampment they found themselves on the edge of the cemetery, a beautifully kept up place with many tombstones, headstones, some statues and even a few mausoleums. Kalder is surprised by a young man in a lion-skin loincloth, one of the Savannah Nomads*, Lieres moves to attack, but the young man attempts to flee. Kalder moves to trip the running boy, but causes a crash, sending them both tumbling to the ground. Lieres pounces, the young man grabs his wrist, and as the Nomad’s eyes roll all the way back in his head he hisses, “You must put the pieces back together!”
He then faints dead away.
Kalder searches the young Nomad, taking his belt pouch (containing only a flint, steel and kindling) and a scroll-case from his poke. The scroll case contains a handful of scraps of parchment and vellum, with scribbles of writing on them.
Kalder keeps these for later, as neither he nor Lieres can determine the language of the writings.
The pair return to the camp. Herthrudr has returned, stating she has found lodging for the crewe at the house of her friend and business partner, Goravir Ploon – A Telantean Aristocrat of Portasbol. Kalder shows her the parchment scraps, and she says the language is High Telantean, the language of the nobility of Zygaria. She would be glad to translate the scraps later tonight.
The Home Of Master Ploon
Ploon has a large and lovely half-timbered home of some 3-4 stories, one of the tallest in Portasbol. His well-trained and cheerful staff take care of the crewe, getting them rooms, hot water for bathing and light refreshments. The crewe are invited to dine with the Master’s other guest in the Dining Room tonight, though the Master himself is out for the evening. Upon dressing for dinner, the crewe discovers Herthrudr has left the mansion to join the Master in business.
Dinner is hosted by Balthus (a Xythian gentleman of middle age), the other guest of the household, who introduces himself as Master Ploon’s friend and business partner, and alludes that he may be a bit of an old-time adventurer himself.
Balthus persuades the PCs to “inventory” Herthrudr’s wagon overnight (for 10 GP each to Kalder and Lieres). He gives them a secret signal to get back in the town after curfew.
Kalder and Lieres go out to the camp and are intercepted by the mangy dog that Lieres fed the other night. It licks his hands, he feeds it again, and heels right by his side. Lieres decides to embrace it.
At the camp they pair regale the guards with a tale of girls and boozing to come, with Lieres laying it on thick while Kalder climbs in the wagon and rifles through the boxes and barrels. This “inventory of the wagon” is a bit of a surprise, discovering a far different cargo than they were expecting (iron weapons, bronze armor, and powerful drugs/poisons). After assuring the men-at-arms guarding the wagon that all was well, K & L go to the cemetery to “see what there is to see”.
It is full dark now, and only Kibble (the stray dog that has attached itself to Lieres) is able to spot the young man who followed them into the cemetery earlier in the day, hiding in the tall grasses near the gate. The Nomad rushes at Lieres, while Kalder throws a knife. The Nomad fails in attempting to bash Lieres’ skull in with a (human thigh??) bone club. Lieres pushes back against the attack, and Kalder is able to blast him, full in the face, with a casting of Crystal Shards, knocking him flat. Not knowing if he was dead or dying, Lieres bound his wounds and performed the Ritual of Departure, drawing the Hex on his abdomen with charcoal.
The two make their way into the cemetery with the dog leading the way, until they get closer to one of the Mausoleums. They can definitely hear a voice inside calling out, perhaps singing or chanting.
Lieres picks the lock, lights a lantern, and they go in. Until now the dog, Kibble, has been following along and behaving to simple commands. He will not, however, go down the stairs! He whines a bit, lays down, resting his heads on his forepaws.
Lieres and Kalder go down the steps without him.
At the bottom they find an empty chamber with a layer of fog on the floor, just over their ankles.. They move across it, through some open double doors, and into a larger room with a sarcophagus on a short dais. They can see the Hex of Departure has been defaced, they also notice that sounds and colors seem to be muted, not sharp or shiny. There are some paintings hanging on the walls, mostly landscapes, but one is of a flower. THIS painting is vibrant. THIS painting is colorful, and it practically invites you to lean in and smell it (the two do, it smells like cinnamon and spice).
They soon discover the inscribed top of the sarcophagus is broken, and the sarcophagus itself is empty!
The broken pieces are on the floor. Reassembled, the carvings on the pieces and the large portion of the lid inscription read, “Here lies Alexarthos Chodonakos, traveler, artist and lover of flowers. May he be remembered by this plaque and the paintings he loved to create.”
They can hear the chanting getting louder and more shrill. One door is locked, so Lieres picks that lock and they go through, into a treasure vault (possibly). Again the chanting is louder, coming from the left, while off to the right, down near the floor, is an odd, dark stain. Closer inspection reveals it to be a sticky substance, like honey or sap, and it’s oozing from around a loose stone in the wall. Lieres pries the loose stone free, revealing a bucket-full of creamy, whitish centipedes. About 2-3 inches long, they spread out over the feet and the floor, scurrying about, and through the various doorways. Some don’t scurry, but stop to eat the sap (or slime, or whatever it is).
The chanting takes on a more ominous tone, and Kalder can feel a vibration in the air, as though being near a large drum. The two men move across the room and, entering a foggy hallway, come into a round chamber with a bizarre scene:
In the middle of the room is a rusty, dilapidated metal cage, large, about 8 feet on a side. In it is a moth-eaten haggard looking parrot, all red, that is bobbing up-and-down and side-to-side. The chanting is coming from the bird, focused on a man kneeling in front of it, hands grasping the decaying cage. It is loud, both take Luck Saves and only Kalder passes. Lieres loses a point of Sanity.
The chanting is in a harsh, guttural language, made even more difficult to listen to by the shrill tone of the bird and its rotting beak. The chanting grows in force and volume, as does the vibration in the air, almost a pounding now.
Kalder and Lieres grab each by the shoulders and formulate a plan. Lieres begins to shake and stutter (losing another point of Sanity) as they decide to douse the man in oil and set him alight.
As they do so the chanting reaches a crescendo, the air is literally pounding as though with a mighty thunder! The kneeling man, otherwise oblivious to the invaders, is splashed with the lamp oil and set alight by Kalder. He stands, shrieking in a hideous voice, and flails away out of the room, down the hall, and out of sight.
There is a sudden silence, the chanting has stopped and the spell seems to be broken! It is! In a most catastrophic way. The resulting thunderclap knocks Lieres and Kalder unconscious for some time.
Hours later, Lieres awakes, is able to refill the lantern with trembling fingers, and awaken Kalder. Both are bleeding from their ears and noses, their faces awash in blood. They struggle to their feet and trace their way back out of the mausoleum. Upon reaching the entry chamber, there is a light coming from the next room, one they had not investigated. They can see a large (6 foot diameter) blue sphere with a white top setting on the floor in an alcove.
Deciding discretion is the better part of valor, the two men make their way up the stairs, where Kibble is delirious to see them. Without any conversation they make their way to the wall, give the signal, and return to the town.
Upon returning to the house of Ploon, they make their way to the garret, where Balthus is waiting, for his “inventory”. He is amused by the state of the men and is glad to pay them. They return to their rooms just before dawn, to fall into a restless sleep.
Kalder and Lieres awaken the next day with blue hands, as though they had plopped their hands in a bucket of blue dye.
A nomadic group of mixed races, the Nomads keep to themselves mostly, trading with the Wagoneers and with Merchant Caravans that sometimes “seek them out”. They are generally peaceful and small groups have been known to visit different towns and cities for trading or visiting Temples or Shrines. They usually wear skins or cloth skirts/clouts and the women wear a halter and a girdle. Some of the Nomads (Leveled ones) have a tattoo of their tribal totem on their left pectoral/above their breast. Those with a Gift or Talent will have a tattoo across their face (it is required to identify yourself as a Sorcerer under Tribal law), under the eyes and over the bridge of the nose. The nomad tribes rarely use horses, preferring instead the Vorlup and Blurglup.
Learn more about the Savanna Nomads on the World Anvil, and a lot more lore about the World of Weirth (TM).
Day 9 (Sothos – the 9th of Zazel, tomorrow is the astrological First Day of Fall) is a Recovery day, for shopping, resting, thinking. Herthrudr returns at dinner time.
The weather has broken, the sky is cloudy and it rains off and on all day.
Many thanks to Paths Peculiar for allowing me to modify and share his One-Page Dungeon. There is more to it, but we are not done yet…stay tuned!
This week we are supposed to sit down with some hex paper and make a map of the home region.
Since we are using the OD&D map from Outdoor Survival, that part is all set. The hexes on the map are five miles across, and correspond to the Regional (25 mile) hexes on the campaign map. Thus, if one were to translate from the “real” world to this demi-plane, then walk 20 miles north and translate back, you would find yourself 100 miles north of where you started.
I am going to redraw this map in Hexkit with a few more details, plus the labels for the towns and castles, etc.
Here is the Regional Adventure Area map, done up in Hexkit:
This map (25 miles per hex) includes:
- One Significant Settlement: The Ghost Monastery
- Two other settlements: the Hanging Gardens and the Fortress of Kadhoar
- Mysterious site to explore: The Spectral Ruin
- One main dungeon entrance: Crag Keep
The next map has five-mile hexes, and is a lot more detailed:
I really love the Hexkit program. It makes the cartography so much fun! I mostly used the hexkit package from Zeshio on this one.
- Lotus Plateau
- Lair of the Golden Serpent
- Ghost Monastery
- Wandering Priest
- Lair of the Spider Queen
- Labyrinth of Shadows
- Forbidden Tower of the Swamp Mother
- Hunting Ground of the Forsaken
- Tree of Knowledge of Sorcery
- Lost Temple of the moon
- Sphere of Annihilation
- Canyon of the Damned
- Knight of Pentacles
The encounter table for the Faerie Realm is going to be pretty standard for anywhere in the Dreadlands. There will be some regional differences, and some differences based on the Topography (Forest/Mountain/Desert). The design aesthetic is taken from the ideas shared by Grumpy Wizard in this blog post How I Structure Random Tables.
The table is laid out to enhance the idea of the setting, and tell a story. In another blog about Encounter Tables (at Pencils & Papers) I found a gem of a quote, “a 2 is always a Dragon, a 12 is always a Wizard”. So, on this table, a roll of 2 will be a very setting-specific encounter with a powerful denizen or group. Likewise, a 12 will be an NPC Magic-User with an unusual specialty or purpose/mission.
By blending the ideas in these two posts I came up with a pretty cool method of generating random encounters.
2 – A very dangerous, highly aesthetic monster encounter
3 – High-danger Mundane creature
4 – NPC: a recurring character or archetype
5 – Medium-danger Faerie monster
6 – 2d6 Faction Members – (Secondary for the area*) working at cross-purposes to the Party
7 – Low-danger Mundane creature
8 – 2d6 Faction Members – (Primary for the area) working with matched-purposes to the Party
9 – “Social”/Sentient Monster (or NPC) – High-danger, only if crossed, parley is recommended
10 – Evidence of Spell Failure (Catastrophic) or magical detritus (high danger environment)
11 – Enchanted Mundane creature with an unusual ability
12 – NPC Magic-User (AVG PC level +4) with unusual specialty or purpose
- Pack of Thogyrie Patrol (d10 + 20 warriors)
- Golem Caravan with Minotaur guards
- Ki-rin (from the clouds above)
- Roll again, on a second roll of 6: one of the Oeloi tyrants and their attendants
- Pack of Sub-griffs
- Herd of Dinosaurs
- Fae-kine Stampede
- Wild Boars
- Giant Snake
- d4 young Wyverns
- Thogyrie Patrol (d6 x 12)
- Minotaur Hunting Party (5)
- Vampires (Stirges) (d6 + 6)
- Flock of Cockatrice (2d4)
- River Dragons (d4)
- Urgot (d6)
6 and 8 – Factions
- Knight of Pentacles
- Ghost Monastery
- Giant Centipedes
- Greater Sub-griff
- Carnivorous Dinosaur
- Fae-kine herd
- Pack of Giant Rodents
9 and 10 Special, unique, set pieces
- Large Rodent
- Affect Normal Fires
- Invisible (except the eyes and teeth)
- Clockwork Automaton
- Crystalline form
12 Special Wizard encounter
The Special results should be created in advance, based on the party composition, history, and level of accomplishment.
So, that’s if for “Week Two”. LOL
Next post in this series will have a layout for the outline of the dungeon known as The Forbidden Tower of the Swamp Mother.
EDIT: I’m no artist, but here’s a sneak-peek!
James and Brian only
The group was “rescued” from the Crystal Chalice by Herthrudr, given an offer of a job guarding her wagon, 5 SP per day, from Fire Rock to Laralasbol.
Fire Rock to Portasbol
Day 4 – 4 Zazel – Leaving Fire Rock at Morning, cross the Jovaan R and follow the hills south for a full day. Herthrudr and Epaphroditos introduce themselves and offer some tasty treats. Nice to have some cakes in addition to the plain fare provided by the cook wagons. Herthrudr shares the news that Lord Zan’s son is getting married on the last day of the festival. To a wealthy Saringa merchant “princess” from the north.
Weather – 90s and sunny, low humidity, mild breezes
- Pre-dawn 2am – 6am Camp
- Morning 6am – 10am –
- Mid-day 10am – 2pm Giant Crayfish Attack during stream crossing
- Afternoon 2pm – 6pm Plains lions prowl nearby, but do not approach the caravan (it’s big!)
- Evening 6pm – 10pm Just after camp is set up, Light sprinkle of rain for one hour.
- Midnight 10pm – 2am Ghostly image of a woman in archaic peasant’s clothing enters the camp, beckons to the sentry, leads them away to a buried chest.
Day 5 – 5 Zazel – “Redwall Canyon” the caravan takes a detour to avoid both the free city of Wind Hill, and Sunbridge, rejoining the road W of Thims-on-Jovaan in two days.
Weather – 90s and sunny, low humidity, mild breezes. The sun really beats down in the canyon, and the breezes carry specks of grit.
- Pre-dawn 2am – 6am About an hour before sunrise, 3 meteors streak across the sky
- Morning 6am – 10am Flock of dark-colored birds fly over as PCs begin to travel (direction of travel: East)
- Mid-day 10am – 2pm Wild birds are flushed out of scrubby bushes near party’s path, as they fly up out of the canyon, one or more “somethings” are moving atop the cliffs.
- Afternoon 2pm – 6pm Light sprinkle of rain for a few minutes.
- Evening 6pm – 10pm Over dinner you hear talk that a Scout discovered bones in one of the alcoves along the canyon wall. Called “Visionary Thrones”, these holes are carved by ascetic monks who come here to meditate and die from starvation and dehydration. No one knows what happens to them after, this is the first they’ve ever heard of bones being found!
- Midnight 10pm – 2am The sound of large flapping wings overhead.
Day 6 – 6 Zazel – Easy push across the savannah, 20 miles plus, should be in Thims by afternoon tomorrow
Weather – Cooler beyond the canyon, 80s and sunny, a few low clouds, low humidity, mild breezes
- Pre-dawn 2am – 6am –
- Morning 6am – 10am Flock of dark-colored birds fly over as PCs begin to travel (direction of travel: East)
- Mid-day 10am – 2pm The party’s path crosses two circles of mashed down grass, each 30 feet in diameter, 100 feet apart. In the very center of each circle is a one foot diameter circle of ash, where the grass has been burned and the circle seems to have been pressed down into the ground about an inch.
- Kalder and Ox picked up the fused soil discs from the burn spots on the savanna.
- Afternoon 2pm – 6pm Monster Small pack (11) of Wolves approach the caravan from the north, pad along parallel to the trail for a bit, then run off and scatter when the Exalted Warriors troupe sounds a horn and goes haring off after them.
- Evening 6pm – 10pm Just after sunset wolves start howling to each other, carry on for an hour or so
- Midnight 10pm – 2am Bats swoop in and out of the shadows around the camp, beeping and clicking
Day 7 – 7 Zazel – Stop briefly at Thims for supplies, wine, and honey, push on to make another 20 miles today
Weather – high 80s and partly sunny, lots of the fluffy cumulus clouds drifting overhead bring welcome shade, low humidity, medium, gusty breezes
- Pre-dawn 2am – 6am Kalder discovers clusters of harmless beetles in their shoes upon getting dressed.
- Morning 6am – 10am –
- Mid-day 10am – 2pm Stop at Thims for two hours
- Afternoon 2pm – 6pm Light sprinkle of rain for a few minutes. Kalder senses something from the West.
- Evening 6pm – 10pm –
- Midnight 10pm – 2am A stray dog comes to the edge of the firelight, begs and whines for food. One head is hanging listlessly, drooling. Lieres feeds the dog, then chases it off.
Day 8 – 8 Zazel – Arrive Portasbol – overnight stop for at least two days, while Caravan Master takes care of some local business and Herethrudr makes a delivery, the party arrives in the afternoon, and they set up their camp with the caravan outside the city walls.
Weather – 90s and mostly cloudy, two layers of clouds, low cumulus and high, feathery streaks (might rain soon, day or two), more humid than yesterday, mild breezes
Epaph is looking for mushroom Tar vials for Kalder.
Festival Rule begins tomorrow. No weapons in town. No armor. No spellcraft magic.
I like ziggurats. They are awesome.
Did some snooping around & found some cool ideas (though I’m not sure I’m ready for a flying car…)
I needed to make a basic temple for the World of Weirth campaign, as the centerpiece of each town or city. Of course, the larger the settlement, the more ziggurats there would be, and larger ones, too!
For now we are going to start with a temple on a 150 foot square base, rising four levels. The temple proper, on the fourth level, will be sixty feet above the ground, its roof rising 25 more.
Because I don’t anticipate the party to be busting in to invade and conquer any occupied Ziggurats, I’ll be okay with just the one floor plan for a while.
I love using the Isometric paper for drawing the dungeons, it makes them look much cooler than the plain-old graph paper. But stacking these particular levels was a challenge to visualize, as I wanted to be semi-realistic (in that Level Two’s thick outer walls are supported in Level One) and because there is a hollow shaft running vertically down the center of the ziggurat, into unknown depths.
So I drew it out on quad-paper first.
Then I plotted out a draft image of the ziggurat and temple itself, with the stairs and all, so I could get a feel for how it would look stacked up together.
As you can see, I am still working on developing my “signature style” (don’t have one just yet!) for the solid walls and shading an such. Here for the interior walls I drew in building blocks, which was pretty tedious. I like the look of it, though, and I may scan this map so I can load it into GIMP and do some shading. I’d also love to have a mural on the wall of Level three and maybe drop some sphinxes on either side of the staircase there.
The main entrance to the temple is on Level Two, under the stairs, one door on each side. These can be locked. There is a secret entrance on Level one, under the stairs, with access to Room 13, the Armory. This entrance is only known to the inner circle of the Temple cult, and perhaps some of the high-level Exalted Warriors.
1 – Entrance – during normal Temple hours this room is staffed by a Level One Initiate and about three Zero-Level Aspirants to greet and direct/guide any visitors. When the Temple is “closed” the room is guarded by a Level Two Acolyte with some defensive spells and a brazier for spellcraft power. Depending on what else is going on, there may be from 4-7 Spearmen/Aspirants to guard the doors as well.
2 – Stairs Down – this door is kept locked, and only fully-ordained members of the cult have a key to the Living Quarters below.
3 – Ritual Cleansing Room – before entering any of the Temple spaces, the cult members will wash and perform cleansing rituals.
4 – Cafeteria – There is room for 60 people to sit down and have a meal together. This is typically very simple fare of Created Food. The blessing and bounty of their god. This room is occupied by a Level Three Adept overnight, to provide assistance or counseling for any of the zero-level neophytes or those who are visiting.
5 – Trash Midden – a shaft down to the refuse disposal area below (otyugh or black pudding)
6 – Lavatory – see 5
7 – Eighteen cells for zero-level Aspirants – those who come to the temple to join in its practices, or for healing, or for study, are housed here. There are two occupants per room, and each has a pallet, washbowl & ewer, small table for books, meditation supplies, and perhaps a small chest for writing material or the like. Personal property is generally not allowed, being stored below.
8 – Ritual Cleansing Room – before entering any of the Temple spaces, the cult members will wash and perform cleansing rituals.
9, 10, 11 – Cells for Ordained Clerics – Each is set up for two-to-a-room, with sleeping pallets or cots, washbasin, small table, 2-3 chairs, a chest for religious accessories, perhaps a small wardrobe and/or a bookshelf/scroll rack.
12 – Library – the temple’s collection of books, codices, scrolls, etc. of religious and magical import. There are a handful of small tables with chairs for reading and study. The Librarian’s desk has writing materials.
13 – Armory – Weapons and armor for the guards, soldiers and Exalted Warriors are stored here. There is also a secret entrance to the ziggurat here, known only to the Innermost circle.
14 – Storage (Smuggler’s Hall) – the temple will often have need to store large amounts of bulk supplies, especially in times of siege, Skarn attack, and so on. This large chamber may also be used as part of a revenue-generating scheme involving “merchants” and “traders” that is perhaps not fully approved by the secular government. There is a secret door leading outside that is large enough for a wagon-and-two to pass through.
15, 16 – Chambers – for the most senior of the Ordained priests and priestesses of the Temple. These rooms are usually set aside for one occupant, with sleeping pallets or cots, washbasin, small table, 2-3 chairs, a chest for religious accessories, perhaps a small wardrobe and/or a bookshelf/scroll rack. Higher level priests tend to have more research materials and “personal property”, depending on how ascetic the cult is.
17 – Mystic Study Chamber – A room with no windows or doors, the only entrance being the central shaft that runs from the top of the ziggurat to the base (and perhaps beyond!).
18 – Worship Center and Altar – details per patron deity or cult.
Here I am learning about GIMP for making maps cooler:
PDF Download (coming soon)
I will be adding this resource to the forthcoming Downloads page, in the meantime feel free to use and modify this Ziggurat Map and Key to fit your own campaign (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)).
It is also compatible with the Low Fantasy Gaming system I am using for my current campaign.
I’m going to start sharing the session recaps for the new campaign here, people seem to like these articles and I look forward to any comments or suggestions!
The World of Weirth is a setting much like a Hyborian Age, with danger at every turn, Swords & Sorcery magic, demons and mad prophets. Check the world of Weirth tab above for more info, including a draft of the Player’s Guide.
We are using the Low Fantasy Gaming rules, with my own home-brew interpretation of the Hyborian Age magic system by Jason Vey. My personal contribution is the actual mechanic of powering the spells through personal life-force, fire, water, or blood sacrifice… Spellcraft becomes much more consequential, thoughtful, strategic and deadly for both caster and recipient.
(These session reports may be a week or so behind the actual day of play, in order to clean them up and make them presentable. They will get better, more detailed and start to include dialogue. I hope.
Any way, part one:
Prologue – Part One
[Session Zero – Aug 18, 02020]
Kalder the Magic-User (James) and Oxardozius the Shepherd (Lucas) have joined a caravan to Laralasbol for the Festival of Swords, marking the first part of Fall. The trip should take 8 or 9 days.
Kalder is looking to see more of the world and learn new magic, Oxardozius has just mustered out of the service and is looking to turn his earnings into more gold!
Three days on the trail and the two have become friends, among the other merchants, guards, fellow travelers, and hangers on. There is also a Holy Delegation of the Church of Santixuk (God of the Sky, Peace, Reason and Serenity) with their own cadre of warriors dressed in blue tabards over their armor. The masks of their helmets are painted white with a royal blue symbol (the tri-sected circle). They look formidable.
Over campfires and skins of wine, the pair have heard a couple of rumors, One: the caravan’s Quartermaster has a supply of Mother’s Milk*. Two: there are Darklings* in the woods north of Sunbridge, that is why the Exalted (Holy warriors of Santichuk) are along with the caravan.
That afternoon they arrived at the town of Fire Rock, setting up camp outside the walls. Kalder and Oxardozius decide to take a night in the town, sleeping in a real bed. They pay a 1 GP toll at the gate, and are surprised that there wasn’t more of a hassle. They get rooms, a meal, and a bath at the Toad’s Rest, a serviceable inn with private rooms and locking doors.
Shameran, the tavern-girl (about 28-30 years, Xythian, looking haggard and not friendly) responds to conversation that there is entertainment at the other inn in Fire Rock, the Silver Chalice (a much more upscale facility).
K and O make their way to the Chalice for the entertainment: music, singing, and a performance of acrobatics. The Singer is the main attraction, a beautiful Telantean woman with a voice like a bird. The audience is spellbound!
After the performance Kalder moves through the crowd to attempt to speak to the singer, and she sees him, smiles, and gives a friendly wave (Reaction Roll 12!). He approaches, introduces himself. She says her name is Shazalimir, that she is going to join her Patron for a bit, but would like to have a drink with Kalder later…
Meanwhile, Oxardozius sees a young boy in Silver Chalice livery attempting to steal a customer’s coin purse. O grabs for the boys hand, he turns to look at O and turns white with fear! O attempts to detain the boy, but he squirms free and drops to the floor, scooting through the crowd and into the kitchen.
Oxardozius follows, but seems to have lost him in the crowded chaos of the kitchen. He sees two other children in the same livery (white shorts and tunic, embroidered with a chalice in black thread) and confronts them. They seem to know nothing of the other boy, and become agitated. The girl (about 12 years old) pushes Oxardozius out of the kitchen.
Oxardozius makes his way across the common room to Kalder, tells him what happened, then confronts the Master of the Dining Room, one Konomor (a Telantean). Konomor is dismissive, refusing to believe that one of his servants would ever steal.
Kalder sees another young boy in Chalice livery, and confronts him about the attempted thievery. The boy is adamant that none of them could ever steal, protesting vigorously – “it’s not allowed”, “we aren’t allowed to steal here”.
Kalder threatens him with a little sympathetic magic and the boy grasps his arm, shaking like a leaf and as pale as a ghost. His forehead beads with sweat, “we are not allowed to steal here” he blurts, before pulling away and disappearing into the crowd.
As the boy escapes, Kalder realizes that most of the well-to-do crowd, and the Master of the Dining Room, are Telantean, but the liveried servant children are Xythian. And now that he thinks about it, the acrobats looked like actual red-headed Tanso Wagoneers, not just Xythians in red wigs!
- Mother’s Milk – a magical substance collected from certain magical forest creatures that can be made into a healing elixir and can give sorcerers special powers. It is rumored to be very dangerous.
- Darklings – monstrous human-like creatures that dwell in deep forests and caves, they are Known to be tribes of cannibals that desire to eat human flesh raw. It is believed that they are humans who have forgotten the faces of their ancestors (an old Xythian turn of phrase that means someone is acting/behaving inappropriately or shamefully). Children are often threatened with “being left out in the woods for the Darklings to eat!” to deter bad behavior.
- Wagoneers – The Tanso are an insular people, with a very distinctive look – they have very fair skin, and flame-red hair. Mostly they keep to their boats and barges in a great lake to the north, but some clans venture south for gold and trade. They are excellent entertainers, putting on shows, plays, music and acrobatics. They are always welcome, even in the smallest villages (where they usually will perform for food and shelter), as their presence lightens the heart and they often have news from away.
I’ve added some more lore to the World Anvil account, detailing some of the races and creatures of Weirth.
The Tanso are a secretive and isolationist people, centered around the great lake of Lago Tanso in the North. They have made their homes on boats and barges since time immemorial, except for a select few clans/family groups that roam the lands of Weirth in caravans of covered wagons.
The Tanso are known for very fair skin; eyes of blue, hazel, lavender; and hair that is wavy, dark auburn through red. They are shorter in stature, than any of the other Human races on Weirth, being wiry and strong with long, dexterous fingers.
Darklings are monstrous human-like creatures that dwell in deep forests and caves, known to be tribes of cannibals that desire to eat human flesh raw. It is believed that they are humans who have forgotten the faces of their ancestors (an old Xythian turn of phrase that means someone is acting/behaving inappropriately or shamefully). Children are often threatened with “being left out in the woods for the Darklings to eat!” to deter bad behavior.These bestial creatures are rumored to exist in different varieties – green, grey and purple – some say the green ones are the size of a gnome, while the purple are bigger than the largest of men.
A succubus is a devious and monstrous supernatural entity that poses in the Prime Material plane as a (usually) female form. They dwell between Weirth and the Dream-like realm of Alcerinda, appearing in dreams to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. According to religious traditions, repeated sexual activity with a succubus can cause poor physical or mental health, even death.
The World of Weirth on WorldAnvil
You can check out the World of Weirth lore on the WorldAnvil site.
Hobby Progress 2020
YTD (Sept 2020): 35
WIP on the workbench: 23
World of Weirth - WIP
* Magic in the World of Weirth - In playtest "beta"
* Tower of Zenopus - Introduction - Complete
* B1 - In Search of the Unknown re-boot - WIP (Maps ✓, NPC re-skin ✓, Backstory update ✓)
* B2 - Keep on the Borderlands re-boot - WIP (Maps WIP, NPC re-skin WIP, Backstory Updated ✓)
Order vs Entropy - An Alternate Alignment System - WIP
Gygax75 - Building the Faerie Realm Gary's way!
- Appendix N
- Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
- Gaming Community
- Grimdark Greyhawk
- Kings of War
- Low Fantasy Gaming Compatible
- OSR – Old School Rules
- Periodic Review
- Personal Updates
- Pulp Alley
- Social Media Networks
- Warhammer 40k
- Warhammer Fantasy Battle
- World of Weirth
- October 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- July 2019
- January 2019
- February 2018
- January 2018
- November 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- January 2016
- November 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- September 2014
- December 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012