Monday, December 28, 2009

Avatar! WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!

Because of all the Christmas crap, I didn't feel like writing anything. It seems, like this holiday was tailored specifically to drain all my energy and leave me feeling like a zombie, with a few gifts as a pretend make up for all the horrors...

But anyway... Today I was planning to go see Avatar with fishlemons...

Before I get into any details, I must state: I'm not a fan of James Cameron or the premise that stands behind the making of that movie, but in order to judge the movie I do need to see it. And in this particular case, to see it as it was meant to be seen - in 3D. So, if you love Cameron or movies like Alexander, you should probably stop reading this now.

You can't really blame me for not linking Cameron. After all, he's the man who gave the world Titanic. Even Terminator and Aliens can't redeem him (let's face it, compared to the original, the sequel to Alien is shit).

I decided to see Avatar knowing the plot is probably gonna be addressed to the same average viewer as Attack of the Clones. A movie with a budget of 237 million $ has to make at least twice as much in order to satisfy people who invested in it and that means it can't feature any controversial ideas, or even hint anything that might be thought as offensive, inappropriate or otherwise unsuitable for anyone who's 12 (interestingly enough, it can feature people shooting each other in the faces).

Apart from that, with the economy and all, spending such amounts of money on making an animated movie with actors acting, but being animated in order to look like they do in real life, seems kinda inappropriate. The first Star Wars cost 10 million, and made much more money than Avatar will ever make. Why not try to go that way, and give the rest 227 million dollars to all the people that lost their houses and life savings?

Still, non above really matters since, instead of going to the cinema, I ended up writing this rant! How did that happen? I tell you why!


Really... As I went online to check the screening hours, I found out that a student ticket (here in Poland we have a good custom of giving University students a discount on cinema and public transport tickets) costs twice as much as usual!!! Not only that, but you also need to "rent" the 3d glasses for an additional, "symbolic" fee...

Summing up, the ticket price for Avatar (including the glasses rent) is equal to a new book!

I won't pay that amount of money for a movie that I probably won't even like... That's why I'd like to ask all of you, who perhaps have seen the movie, IS IT REALLY WORTH THE MONEY???

...or should I just get myself sth. good to read?

Btw. I promise my future posts to be of more substance.

the painting is "Saturn devouring his son" by Goya

Thursday, December 24, 2009

10 ideas that never made it pt.4

3. Running a superdupermetagame of Forgotten Armies, Mage or Call of Cthulhu.

The idea is to play a game that would be more like a LARP than a typical table RPG game.

The way I imagine it happening would be, that I first do the typical character creation with charts and other typical shit, then start the game. It's set in present day Warsaw, revolves around places that me and my players/friends know.

The first session doesn't involve any dice and at the end of it I take away the character charts (never to return). During the game I role-play some NPC's and one of them tells the players to contact him via e-mail.

When players do contact him ( players writing an email as their characters), he replies that something happened and he needs to see them, gives place and date of a meeting...

So one of the players goes there, I'm already there in character. I give him/them a note and, blabbering about danger and shit, run out of the place...

The note has information about what to do next, the players have to seek out a book in the library (the one thing the University of Warsaw does have, is a very nice and spacious library). Eventually one of them rents out the book mentioned in the note, in it is a hidden message (prepared by me beforehand, e.g. written in pencil on random pages)...

I think you get the idea... The players meet me and can never be sure, if I am in character or just to hang out and get some beer. Ideally, one of the players works with me and "decides" to betray the rest at some point... The possibilities are endless...

Why I've never done it should be obvious! It's too much work... And you can never be sure if your players will react positively to this kind of shit...

The biggest obstacle is the story itself. I never came up with a story that would be interesting enough to put so much effort into developing it. The other problem it would, most likely, have to be created in real time, or be super ingenious, so that the players do what you want, without realizing it...

Overall, this is (most likely) the Impossible Game!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

10 ideas that never made it pt.3

4. Using/playing Arrk

I'm really happy that I've never bought the 3e. Forgotten Realms Handbook. However, my friend did and I borrowed it. I've nearly read the whole thing, trying to scavenge it for ideas, locations and NPCs...

Now I can say with full conviction: I hate Forgotten Realms. I used to just hate it's "literary offspring", but after reading the handbook, I'm certain it's not R.A. Salvatore's fault it's unimaginative and boring. Flavorlessness is it's premis.

The only NPC I liked in the whole book, was Arrk. Who is Arrk? This is who:

Arrk's a troll, who left his kin in order to become a mercenary. He's a typical bread and butter adventurer... except for the fact, that he's what adventurers usually kill.

The handbook doesn't say much...

"He sells his services anyone with money as long as the job's doesn't take more than a tenday, for Arrk has a short attention span and tires of other people quickly. He has the unnerving habit of licking his bleeding [due to a curse] sword when he grows bored or nervous, and his hygiene is no better that that of a common troll, so civilized folk can't tolerate him for long.
Despite these faults, Arrk can be counted on to hold up his end of bargain. Given that he tends to eat people who steal from him or refuse him his pay, other folk deal with him honestly."

... but I'm sold!

image by Matt Wilson

Monday, December 21, 2009

10 ideas that never made it pt.2

6. Creating a blind mage

We were to play Warhammer and the idea was simple: there was a mage who went blind. Because he couldn't cope with his disability he implanted himself new eyeballs made of warp stone...

To other people he would look like his eyes were missing, his sockets being just black holes sucking out the light. The other thing was how the eyes would actually work. All the perception was distorted by the warpstone in such a way, that the mage couldn't read any written messages, but would perceive emotions of the author in the process of writing. Same would happen to his perception of people. He could read auras and emotions, but lack the ability to actually see faces clearly...

If you know anything about WFRP, it's not a surprise that the DM wasn't enthusiastic...

5. The elf barbarian

Once we were to play 3e. D&D. I was sooo amped. As I was thinking what character to play, I saw an image of a raging celtic warrior wearing only body paint. The image was so evoking that I decided to play a character who was a tattooed berserker and an elf (I really have no idea where that elf came from, but it was a must!). I started thinking how the fuck could all those things come together. And you know what? I think I came up with quite nice character background!

It all started in a small, peaceful elven community that was being raided by drow. At first the attacks were sporadic and infrequent. But with time, the dark elves became more persistent, launching regular raids, ambushing the hunter groups, slowly depriving the community of warriors and anyone able to defend the village.

Finally, it was clear that not enough men are left to effectively defend the community and that the next raid will be the final one. Compelled by the duty to his people, the druid (who was also the leader of the community), decided to sacrifice his own child in order to save the village and avenge the dead elves.

He prepared a ritual in which a dangerous demon, a Strzyga, would be bound in the body of the young elf. He knew that after his child destroys the drow, he will have to be killed. His heart was crying, yet he did not hesitate.

Soon, at the full moon, the ritual commenced. The young elf screamed in pain as mystical wards, ment to chain the demon's soul, were engraved onto his body. After many hours of torment his consciousness gave out. As the ritual was coming to an end and last runes were scribed, the drow struck...

When the boy woke up everything was in blood. Bodies of slaughtered elves, both drow and village, were scattered all around him. Something must have gone wrong... HE was still alive, body covered with mystical signs and a new strange feeling of alien presence following wherever he would go...

He knew what had really happened, but failed to acknowledge it, or perhaps something or someone didn't want him to acknowledge. With passing time the boy became a man. He wandered the wild territories becoming a formidable fighter, avoided settlements, since a simple tavern quarrel would often lead to fleeing the town, not remembering what followed and how a simple misunderstanding ended in a brutal fight...

Man! I wish that game did work out!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

10 ideas that never made it pt.1

It's really cold here, -13 degrees Celsius (8.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Somehow the Melvins' Boris helps to keep me warm.

It might seem strange, but I often come up with my most creative/weird ideas in the shower. Today I thought about gaming ideas that I had in the past, but somehow never got to realize.

Here's my first installment of...

10 ideas that I always wanted to realize, but failed or forgot to:

10. Playing Shadowrun

I bought the main handbook and always wanted to use it, even though I could never imagine how all the pieces came together. I know people who played the game extensively and had lots of fun... I guess my experience running the shadows is yet to come!

9. Wladir Lennist and Karel Merx

This idea actually kicked off pretty well, but ended shamefully. Wladir Lennist and Karel Merx were characters created by me and my friend for a fantasy game of non decrepit origin (also known as the "anything goes" type).

I was playing Lennist, an elf, who with his gnome comrade Merx tries to start a revolution against the feudal lords. Merx was the brains and face of the duo, giving out fiery speeches and creating magical bombs. Lennist had a horrible burn covering the whole side of his face due to a bomb misfire. He was the muscle of the operations, skilled in fencing and acrobatics, assassinating the enemies of the people (usually by blowing them up).

By this point you probably noticed that our main inspiration for those fucked up PCs were Lenin and Marx, followed by the whole bunch of 19th century anarchists...

At the beginning things were running smooth. However, we haven't foreseen the fact that our gaming group would incorporate a VERY irritating guy (seriously imagine this guy as a player)... At first staying in character wasn't difficult, but with the passing of time, my in game goals shifted. I didn't want to liberate the people of the state, I wanted to kill the irritating player. I wanted to torture him in every possible way, throw his preposterous character (it was a dark blue skinned vampire with black angelic wings, which was supposedly "the chosen one" of his race, blah blah blah) into a meat grinder...

At this point I should probably say, that I am a bit ashamed of what I did, as it was an example of extremely bad gameplay, but I don't regret it.

What happened is: after his 4059 stupid remark my character simply started attacking the irritating vampire schmuck. To my surprise this polarized the party (i think people simply decided not to act out of character) and a huge fight broke out. Needles to say it ended with a TPK ( I think, I blew myself up just to kill the last enemy) and the DM treating us like a bunch of idiots.

I still think the characters could have been fun to play, although that was probably the first and the last time I tried to incorporate a modern political concept into character creation.

8.Goblin Campaign

Ever since I encountered a review of Orkworld in the only Polish RPG magazine, my imagination was filled with dreams of running a campaign wit PCs being goblins, orcs, trolls or things like that.

We even created some characters. My favorite was a small goblin, who in a conanesque fashion was trapped in a cave that turned out to be a tomb of a long dead king. There he acquired a Powerful Great-sword.The only problem was, the poor gobbo was barely able to lift the thing.

I still feel sad about this idea never working out.

7.Creating a Cube-like dungeon

This idea was inspired by the movie Cube (duh!). The main point wasn't to create a dungeon that would look like the place from the movie, but for the layout of the dungeon to change in an organized pattern.

Such a dungeon would need to have a very thought out and logical construction. The pattern in which the rooms layout would change is also very important. It shouldn't be random, since the main point of the adventure would be for the players to crack the pattern in order to get out (as opposed to getting out by means of some magical device in the dungeon etc.).

I think it's not a very fresh idea, but surely a inspiring one. I never got myself to actually do it because it's extremely demanding both from the players and the DM. My biggest issue is the pattern of the dungeon transformations. A complicated one might prove to be too difficult for the players, one that is easy to break would simply kill the whole adventure...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kneel before Skaghe!

So! WE have chosen the name for the barbaric, northern, axe wielding god!

I think the poll experiment worked very well. I'm happy with the name that won and I think it fits the flavor of the setting well!

Here are the results:

Hákon 5 (14%)

JóR 5 (14%)

KilfiR 2 (5%)

Wyr 6 (17%)

Skaghe 13 (37%)

Úlfr 3 (8%)

Vöttr 6 (17%)

Özurr 6 (17%)

Ögmundr 6 (17%)

Thank you all for participation!

Here's your prize from Skaghe!

And here are links to the gods that were already posted on this blog (in order of appearance):

The Mother Goddess

The Hungry One


The Supreme Being

The Robe

art by Thomas Denmark

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I finally came up with a god of death that will suit my needs!

Here are my two biggest inspirations.

Listen to this while reading!

The Robe (also The Black Judge, The Master of Dreams)

This deity is the personification of death. It is the most wide spread religion among human lands.

The god of death is most commonly presented as a human figure covered in a black robe, no face visible from under it's hood. Often statues of the Robe can be seen with large, black swords.

It is believed that no living thing can ever see the face of this god, as he IS death. It is often said that a person who passed away "saw the Robe", or "had seen the face of Death".

Similarly, the Black Priests (or the Priests of Death) should wear their robes at all times, never showing their faces, or revealing their true identity to anyone outside of the order. It is said that upon donning the Black Robe the priest "dies" to the world, becoming an anonymous agent of death.

Revealing a priest's true identity to a person from outside of the order is thought to be a sign of a great friendship, but also a burden to the person who knows it, as the priest has the right to claim his or her life, if his name is revealed to anyone else.

According to the dogma of the Order of Death (or the Black Brotherhood), the Robe is also the patron of sleep and dreams, as these are thought to be a preparation before the "final crossing". It is believed that sleep is caused by the god spreading his robe over one's bed.

The cult's priests are know for their ability to speak to the dead and summon dead souls, as well as perform elaborate divinations. On the other hand hey are strictly forbidden to bring the dead back or to create any forms of undead. One of the main commandments of the religion is to destroy any undead or necromancers, as they disturb what the order believes to be the foundation of the world.

Finally, the priests of Robe also holds responsibilities for handling executions, which they address as "assisting in the last crossing". Although each priest is trained in using a black great-sword, in case he is asked to "assist", executions remain a responsibility of the common clergy members and not the high ones. It is important to note that Black Priests are strictly forbidden to perform any tortures or take any slaves/prisoners of war.

The cult is quite numerous, well organized and has a temple in almost every city. Usually the order takes care of the cemetery, very often the temple is situated next to it. Common folk visit the temples for healing, as the Robed Priests are well trained in making healing potions and known to posses great knowledge of human anatomy.

Although in casual talk people refer to the Robe, as a male, members of both sexes are accepted to the clergy. Both wizards and clerics are common in the order.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saves, not "safes"!!!

This is probably the last post on modifying S&W saving throws (here is the first and second entry on the subject).

Below is my proposition of two new save progressions. On the side there is the % chance of succeeding depending on the bonus from the ability linked to the save.

Save progression #1

Level Save Chance, no mod Chance + 1 Chance +2
1 16 25% 30% 35%
2 15 30% 35% 40%
3 14 35% 40% 45%
4 13 40% 45% 50%
5 12 45% 50% 55%
6 11 50% 55% 60%
7 10 55% 60% 65%
8 9 60% 65% 70%
9 8 65% 70% 75%
10 7 70% 75% 80%
11+ 6 75% 80% 85%

Save progression #2

Level Save Chance, no mod Chance + 1 Chance +2
1 17 20% 25% 30%
2 16 25% 30% 35%
3 15 30% 35% 40%
4 14 35% 40% 45%
5 13 40% 45% 50%
6 12 45% 50% 55%
7 11 50% 55% 60%
8 10 55% 60% 65%
9 9 60% 65% 70%
10 8 65% 70% 75%
11+ 7 70% 75% 80%

So as you see, the base save values are now a bit lower compared to the original ones, but thanks to the addition of the ability modifiers there is more variety.

The idea is to give each class one save throw based on progression #1 and two based on progression #2.

Let us see how it would look in the case of a level 2 cleric, with stats:

16 WIS (+2 mod)
11 DEX (no mod)
13 CON (+1 mod)

His "main" saving throw is Will:

Fortitude Save: 16 (+1 on the roll from CON)
Reflex Save: 16
Will Save: 15 (+2 on the roll from WIS)

He's chances for a successful saving throw would be: Fort: 30%, Ref: 25%, Will: 40%.

Additionally the original rules state that the cleric class has a special +2 bonus on saving throws against poison and paralyze (which would here belong to Fort save).

If you compare the saving throws of that 2 level cleric with the original save table for clerics, you will see, that altho his "secondary" saves are lower than they would be according to the original rules, his "primary" one is much higher.

The bottom line is , that even though I'm not completely convinced by my save house rules, they do seem to bring a bit more variety into the game. I'll try to go with them for now...

If you see a good reason why this post sucks, please inform me. I will greatly appreciate any input!

Roll against html tabels! or How I spent the weekend

Disclaimer: today's post contains a lot of numbers and math, even some %. Read on your own responsibility or skip to the end.

I will continue my musings on the problem of saving throws in S&W. I've decided to at least try to transform the single saving throw into a triple saving throw system like in 3.x e.

But first let's look at the original saving throw of S&W. There are two advancement tables, the first one is used by fighters and dwarfs, the second - clerics and magic users:

Level Save#1 Save#2
114 15
2 13 14
3 12 13
4 11 12
5 10 11
6 910
7 8 9
87 8
9 6 7
10 5 6
11+ 4 5

In order to be saved from doom you have to roll a d20 and get a number even to, or higher than the save score. It means that at first level the chances of successful save check are respectively 35% and 30 %. On level 11, the chances are: 85% and 80%.

Now. What I want to do:

divide it in to three save categories called Endurance, Reflex and Will,

each based on an advancement table similar to the above, but additionally modified by the abilities - Con, Dex and Wis respectively.

Yes, so basically it was already done in 3 e. I know. Move on.

So, let's suppose that I count ability modifiers like this:

3-4 -2
5-8 -1
9-12 0

And let's suppose that I use the S&W save progression #2 for Will saves of a character whose Wis is 18. Here's how that character's chances of making a successful save would look like:

Level Old Chance New Chance
130% 40%
2 35% 45%
3 40% 50%
4 45% 55%
5 50% 60%
6 55%65%
7 60% 70%
865% 75%
9 70% 80%
10 75% 85%
11+ 80% 90%

Ok. I wrote that shit down, because I'm a mathematical retard and this whole table clears things up.

As we can see, my idea is overpowering the players (duh) significantly. And as much as I like to awesome up players, making them invincible is a short path to boredom.

All this boring stuff leads us to one conclusion: in order to make this thing work, I to make need new save advancement tables...

The real question behind this conclusion is, is there any point?

Ok that was really boring!!!!!!!

This anecdote comes from fishlemons blog ( the other one):

" (...) so we ended up going to this lame party where some of our amusing friends were. yay. we smoked the joint walking up to the main door of the building and rang the door-communication-bell-thing, i take a drag as someone answers and squidman suddenly jumps up to it and says
- "Police!"
-*silence* *click*
i stare at him and he rings again quickly
-"no! its just me! Chri-!"

we look at each other, shrug and i give our friend who is at this party a call to tell her to let us in. (its freezing cold out there) This entire exchange has taken less than a minute... at the inner door we are met by some guy, who might have been the host or not, whatever. and only then does he realize that it really is only us. We walk into the middle of an eerily quiet party, because people are apparently HIDING. people managed to flush a substantial amount of weed down the toilet in that tiny amount of time.

god people are stupid.

turns out the entire party is a total of about 12 people, all but 4 of which are playing poker. with poker chips and a green felt table thingy and for money. .... seriously?
we found our friends (the 4 people not playing poker) in a room deeper in the apartment that was full of instruments like Mongolian violins, miniature banjos, lots of African drum things and guitars. Adam is cradling the banjo and plucking randomly to the beat of whatever strange electronic music is coming from the computer speakers.
there were some amusing moments when we lost 2 of our group to poker and just 4 of us played silly songs from J's ipod and we danced like strange, retarded, stoned and tipsy prehistoric birds. or something. (...)"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Roll your save against the poisonous darts shooting from the holes in the wall!

So now I'm a bit stuck with the process of creating my pantheon...

The reasons are two fold:

1. Now that I have defined some of the gods, my field of movement got narrower. I still have vacancies like: The Death Diety or The God of Magic, but can't rush things since those are important aspects of the world and the way I handle the gods responsible for them will influence to feeling of the whole setting.

While employing some ideas to fill out those empty spaces, I need to put them into connection with the existing gods. How do the religions interact, what are the relations between the deities in the mythology?

2. I had a shitty day and writing comes as a kind of struggle.

All this is not bad though, since it allows me to write about some rules, a thing I was ment to do for some time now.

Saving Throws

To me it seems that there are three approaches to the problem of how to handle saving throws:

  • The 3.x e. approach, which employs three saving throws: Endurance, Reflex and Willpower, all are class and level dependent. Additionally each is modified by an Attribute, namely: Constitution, Dexterity and Wisdom.

  • The Swords & Wizardry approach, here each class has one universal saving throw.

The first solution is most in touch with the flavor of the OD&D, yet strikes me as the least intuitive one, as well as being a bit rules heavy. I never understood why death rays and poison should fall into the same category, why staffs and wands should be two separate ones and what is the resistance to petrification dependent on?

The last solution is mechanically the polar opposite of the first one, yet it's equally in tune with the spirit of OSR and possesses some aesthetic allure. Still, I can't get completely convinced.

Perhaps, my uneasiness comes from the fact that I actually liked the 3e. saves. I think the division between the three categories is very clear, functional and most of all - logical. You avoid a fireball by dodging it, you are protected from poison by your body's endurance.

All that thinking that I've done, has led me to rethinking the single saving throw used by the S&W core rules. I think I'm gonna change it into 3 categories just like in 3.x e. D&D.

Still, I'm not exactly sure how to do it as I think there are two ways to introduce the triple saving throw mechanics to S&W:

1. Keep the original saving throw as a base value modified by an appropriate ability modifier like this:

END: Save + Con

REF: Save + Dex

WIL: Save + Wis

(of course the modifier is added to the d20 roll for save, not the save value itself)

2. Make a new save table for each class...

Now I'm really keen on the idea of keeping the original saves and just moding them with ability modifiers. Still I'm not sure, if it will work properly? Will it overpower the players?
And what about PCs with negative ability modifiers?

And finally, maybe I'm just a little bitch and should keep things as they are in the book?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some god, some history

Today's dish is another "evil" deity.

I've already mentioned that in the history of my setting there was an Empire created by elves (or more accurately - the predecessors, whom from now on I shall just call the Elders). As you know from my previous entry on how my elves work, the Elders subjected themselves to a massive experiment/ritual, that was supposed to make them "ascend" into what they thought would be "godhood".

However the ritual proved to be a mistake which killed most of the race, deprived the Elders of their immortality (or more accurately agelessness) and changed them into hermaphroditic beings. This has led to a quick demise of the Elder (or simply Old) Empire.

Slaves, servants, previously overpowered allies and barbarians quickly took the opportunity rising from the initial chaos. In just a decade, ages of work have been destroyed.

However, most of what happened after the Fall wasn't simple pillaging. Many have died from protective wards, traps and weapons wielded by golems and undead guarding the estates of their now dead lords. Even though the oppressors were practically all dead (the "newborn" elves quickly abandoned the city fortresses and retreated into the forests), the powerful magic that was the foundation of their rule remained.

To this day, several hundreds of years after the fall of the empire, few dare to venture into the grim ruins of the Elder's cities, as even fewer are said to return.

But what led a powerful and seemingly immortal race to risk the existence of their entire kind and jeopardize their reign over the world?

Turesius, one of the prominent scholars, claims that the immediate cause for the demise of the empire was the appearance of a new cult devoted to The Supreme Being. In his works, Turesius observes, that even though little is known about the cult, it spread surprisingly quickly (which means some 300 to 400 years), overthrowing all other religions.

He also puts forward a hypothesis, that the seemingly immediate (in comparison to the Elders lifespan) overtaking of the state by the new religion was caused by decadence and boredom, which gave birth to many secret societies. Turesius presumes that the cult originated from those societies.

The Supreme Being

Little is known about this deity, as it is thought to no longer posses worshipers. The only fact known for certain is that it was a monotheistic religion calling to overthrow all "false gods".

It is also known that by the Fall, The Supreme Being was worshiped as a state deity of the Empire and the last Emperor held the title of the cult leader - Overlord.

Apart of that it is unknown how the religion was organized or even if it had any priests or temples, as almost all images and places of cult were destroyed immediately after the fall.

Turesius of Kal'thar, the acclaimed famous wizard and scholar claims that the religion's main dogma was based on introducing reason and claiming that all beings are imperfect images of the deity. He is also known to have deciphered part of the lore of the cult which claims that it is possible for the living beings to ascend and seize control over other living beings, the text however doesn't specify how one can achieve that.

It is important to note, that present elves don't want to be associated with the Empire or it's religion, and refuse to talk about those matters with non elves, referring to them only as the Great Shame. Many scholars interested in the subject suspect that elves hold some knowledge of the cult, yet refuse to share it with anyone, calling the Supreme Being "a cult that should have never been".

PS. some of the links may at first glance seem not related, yet I promise you, they are. They're worth reading if you want to fully get what I was after.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A poll in god's name!

I can't imagine a pulp fantasy settings without raging barbarians and berserkers in horned helmets!

Ok, I can imagine it, but what's the point?!

Once in a while everybody feels the need to just create a character that's a half naked barbarian-thief, fast like a panther and strong like a boar. And to enjoy such a character, you need a god with a cool name, one you will call upon when in trouble (even though he doesn't give a shit).

Crom is the real shit, but let's be honest, no one will take your badass barbarian seriously if you call Crom in the middle of the game.

Odin or Thor maybe? Nah... It's not a bad solution since the amount of awesome Thor has might last for the next thousand years. However I'd feel like I'm cheating if I just took the existing gods and transplanted them into my setting (I know that's exactly what Howard did, but he was a pioneer of the genre).

I came up with a nice (a bit generic, but that was the point) story for a god, but I'm helpless when it comes to names. I looked at many old nordic names, narrowed down my choices but can't really choose one (maybe they're all lame)...

I Want Your Help!
I'll post a POLL. It will hang here for circa 10 days, please vote on the name that in your opinion is the coolest, or leave your proposition in the comments!

Now to the meat!

The Lord of Winters, The Old Wolf, The Guardian of the Dead

"His body is covered in a white bear's skin, a horned helmet rests on his head, covering eyes in the color of a burning charcoal. He sits on a throne made from the skulls of his enemies. (...) An axe with a blade forged from the night itself leans on the side of the throne, the one eyed wolf sleeps by his feet..."

This is how one of the old chronicles describes the god of thunders. Although he clearly hails from the northern regions, he's a deity, whose cult spilled all over the continent.

He is believed to have been the one responsible for creating the earth and the sky, by splitting the world in half. His throne is said to stand at the top of the world, guarding the entrance to heaven and hell. There he battles lost souls and demons who wish to break out. The lightning is said to be caused by the swings of his axe, the thunder is his battle cry.

The barbarians of the north believe that their tribes originate from his union with the Mother Goddess. Dwarfs claim that his beard is made of steel, iron and mithril. They claim that the ores are simply single hair that he had lost during many battles.

The Lord of Winters is believed to have control over wolves, according to the legend he battled the first wolf with bare hands, knocking out the beast's eye. However he was so impressed by the beast that instead of killing it, he befriended it. The barbarians of the north believe that he then used the wolves to teach people how to fight and organize war parties. because of that killing wolves in the north is strictly forbidden, unless it is done without the use of man-made weapons.

Both druids and clerics can be priests of this deity, the first would be the shaman-berserkers from the northern villages, while the latter - representatives of the more organized southern church.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


As much as I value originality and making up weird shit, I think it’s really important not to forget about some images or symbols that are deeply rooted in the human cultural subconscious.

A fine example of a symbol that has the same connotations in many (if not nearly all) cultures would be associating snakes, toads or dragons (which fall to the snake category) with evil and fear.

I think a play on such re-emerging cultural motifs is essential when we want to make the players feel scared or at least uneasy.

And what else should an evil deity do, if not address peoples imagination and fears...

That’s why, when I was thinking of introducing evil deities and cults to my pantheon, the first thing that came to my mind was the image of the Baphomet.

Maybe I’m just weird from watching too many old horror movies, but I just love the long black robes and satanic imagery (seriously, who doesn’t?) even tho it got so overused.

Thus when an image of a goat headed starved man came to my head, I couldn’t resist...

The Hungry One (also The Bringer of Plague, the Master of Flies, The Starved One)
The Great Rapist is an evil deity. In iconography he’s usually portrayed as a thin, starved, naked man with small genitals and a goats head.

He is said to have been brought to life as a lover/slave by the Maiden. However he fell in love with her and became jealous of the many other men with whom he had to share his mistress. With time he changed from a merry youngster into a bitter and vengeful man. Finally, mad with jealousy, he came up with a plan to imprison the Goddess.

He crept up into her chamber woven from the roots of the Tree of Life and wanted to tie up the sleeping Maiden. However the Goddess wasn’t to be surprised so easily and a fight broke out.

Driven by madness and desperation, the lover decided that if he can’t capture his beloved one, he will kill her. In a furious struggle he managed to bite off the Goddess’ left nipple and cut her face with a dagger, taking away the sight in her left eye. In anguish and fury the Goddess cast a curse upon him, deeming him to a fate worse than death.

The spell made his genitals rot away and his head transform into that of a mindless goat. Endless thirst and hunger fell upon him. He is to wander for eternity, tormented by his lust but never knowing any satisfaction

The Hungry One is seen as the god of lust, jealousy and gluttony. He has no church or clerics, however shrines are built, in them people are supposed to leave gifts of food, money, drink or clothing which are than redistributed (usually by the clerics of some other cult, that also takes care of those shrines) to the poor.

It is said, that secret cults devoted to The Hungry One exist. Some of them have been heard to be societies for nobles seeking forbidden pleasures often of a sexual nature.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Maiden, The Mother, The Crone

The main reason for the two previous posts about beliefs and religion is that I find them a very important part of every setting. It tends to be treated rather lightly by many game designers, which I think is a huge mistake. In the history of our world, religion and the way people approached it, often mirrors the spirit and atmosphere of a historical period.

That is why I want to create a pantheon that will have a dark, mysterious atmosphere. From the beginning I knew I wanted at least one religion to have a feeling of primitive, wild power embodying the forces of nature.

I somehow started thinking bout Luke Skywalker's visit to Dagobah. You know, swampy, dangerous surroundings, heavy mists. A place where players might feel powerless in the face of nature... That reminded me of a comic book which has a similar atmosphere, namely Slaine (specifically "Treasures of Britain", read it if you haven't). Here are some great illustrations by Dermot Power (click to enlarge):

Now I will have to digress, but believe me, I am closing to the main point of this post.

More or less at the same time as I started to think about religions in my world, I read something about druids. I always thought that D&D druids were somewhat tasteless and lacking character. The thing that especially bothered me was the idea of them being neutral(but I think that's a topic for a different post) and "worshiping" nature. I never really bought that. I was always wondering what their religious practices look like, is there any hierarchy or organization? I never came across an interesting idea or description of druids background, but that's not the point here.

Somehow I started thinking of druids and linking them to the swampy, secretive atmosphere. I also stumbled upon this blog entry and started listening to The Sword, who have a song entitled Maiden, Mother, And Crone.

By now you should be able to deduce what happened in my mind. I linked all ideas together arriving at druids worshiping the Mother Goddess.

The Cult of Goddess:

The Great Mother is considered to be the mother of gods and all living beings. She is the embodiment of the primitive forces and laws of nature. The Mother is said to be both generous and treacherous. She feeds all beings and all things alive are her children, but she favors the strong and cunning, and will not hesitate to kill the weak. However she is a fair mother and distributes her gifts equally among all, even if we may think otherwise.

The cult of the Goddess is thought to be the oldest in the world. However it seems that there is no larger organization than that of independent sacred groves located deep in the forests. Less than a dozen such places are known.

The Goddess is worshiped in three aspects - the Maiden, the Mother, the Crone. Each representing different aspects of nature. The Maiden is the embodiment of sexuality and strength of youth. She is often mentioned in rituals as being both a virgin and a whore. The Mother represents fertility and motherhood. The Crone is a mad, blind old woman who is thought to hold the fate of each living being, thus no man can know when to expect death. She is also said to know the future.

Each of the druidic groves is run by women. At any given moment there must always be three women being the embodiment of The Goddess. They are also the spiritual leaders of the order. On acquiring the "title", they are stripped of their previous identity and can only be talked of (or refer to themselves) as "the Mother" and so on...

Men are prominent in the cult and are the actual priests leading most of the rituals, except the most important ones. All male priests might be chosen by the priestess being "the Maiden" to be her partners, however upon taking the title of "the Mother" a priestess has to marry one priest who becomes her husband and they live in a monogamous relationship. "the Mother" has to become pregnant at least once. The High Priest is supposed to be the embodiment of an ideal husband, he also is administrating the grove.

It is said that in the middle of each grove there is a mystical "Tree of Life". Those trees are said to have been planted upon “Seeds of Life”, however nobody knows whether that is true. Many scholars think it’s a metaphor for places of power or magic knots.

Gods, Demigods and Atheists

Often in my gaming history have I came across players not caring about religion and gods of the setting, easily asserting their characters are atheist. I always found that disturbing, since it seemed to me that such players couldn't alienate from their own beliefs , or didn't care much about the setting/game/character.

In fact, when we look at the evolution of religions and human beliefs, the idea of atheism appeared relatively late and even then it was present only in philosophy. I think that we can safely assume that the popularization of the view that no god exist took place on the break of the 19th and 20th century.

Knowing that, I am very reluctant to allow people to claim their characters are atheist. I simply find it impossible that a down to earth fighting man or a thief would deny the existence of gods, especially since they are surrounded by clerics casting spells and other supernatural phenomena.

However I can imagine a philosopher or a high level wizard, who had contact with demons and other supernatural beings, claim that the gods have merely the same status as demons, or that they don't exist (or really being convinced of anything else). I can (and probably will at some point) make my players encounter a demon claiming that he is a god and making them believe that in serving him, they are filling the will of a deity.

But even then I will make sure they won't easily share their views with other people, especially clerics, since openly sharing claims of the non existence of gods will meet at best with being called "mad" and in the worst case with imprisonment or court punishment (in a theocratic state for example).

Don't get me wrong, but I just feel that if someone wants to play an atheist character, he should have a good, interesting idea instead of being lazy.

Talking about ideas...

... vaguely connected with the previous topic, I wanted to say that in my efforts to create an interesting pantheon of gods, that would fit my idea of gaming world, I have tried to seek inspiration in Deities & Demigods handbook (3e). Let me say: THIS BOOK IS THE WORST RPG HANDBOOK EVEEEEEEER!!!

Seriously! I found no useful information about creating an interesting pantheon or about historical pantheons that have actually existed. It seems that the people who wrote that book were completely devoid of imagination or any creativity.

Moreover, what I did find is a table telling me how many spells per level (!WHAT THE FUCK!) a god can cast!

I'm sharing my outrage, because that handbook is an embodiment of everything that is bad in the gaming industry...

It seems to me that it has been written purely to steal money from people who are new to the hobby without giving them anything, literally ANYTHING (apart, maybe, from a 1 kilogram heavy, bound pack of paper) in return.

Death To WotC!

Long live OD&D Revival!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Religion, magic and rules in D&D

I've got the race thing out of my way! Yay! Now I'll move on to the next stage - religion.

I think there are two general ways most fantasy settings handle religion:

1. Gods are almighty beings that walk the earth, influence the course of history and can reevaluate the fundamentals of the world.

2. Gods don't influence the setting directly and even though other supernatural creatures do exist, the existence of gods is often disputed.

Forgotten Realms and Dragon Lance would represent the first category, while Conan stories would belong to the second one.

As I've said before, I'm not interested in "high fantasy(whatever that means)- we are saving the world cause we were chosen by gods" adventures. That's why I'm obviously leaning towards the second category. However this solution isn't completely compatible with the D&D class and magic rules. Let me elaborate.

I think most of you will agree that in the actual world (the one we physically live in) there is no such thing as magic, or to phrase it more precisely, the existence of such a force is highly questionable. The most obvious difference between our actual world and the fictional world of my game is the fact that in the latter one the existence of magic is undeniable. In our world the existence of magicians, wizards or sorcerers can be disputed unlike in my game world.

This leads us to the problem of D&D mechanics concerning the cleric class. According to the rules of D&D clerics are not only magic users but also their magic comes directly from the gods and thus is different from the "other", arcane magic.

The thing is, in our actual world religion is based on faith, not on empirical evidence. In the fantasy world governed by the rules of D&D it's the opposite case. Clerics can summon up staffs and hammers made of pure energy, heal broken bones by touch and bring people back from the dead. In the world following from the rules of D&D there can be no dispute over the existence of gods, since the clerics and their deeds give a living proof of their existence.

So it seems that the D&D rules are in serious inconsistency with my idea, of how I'd like my game to look. However the solution to this problem is very simple. Abandon the divine magic. By that I don't mean abandon the cleric class.

Since I assume magic simply is the undercurrent of my game world's reality, it seems quite useless to divide it into two "kinds" or "categories". This solution seems simply inelegant and aesthetically crude. It seems much simpler to say that there is one magic, but two different ways of learning and using it.

Wizards (magic user class) are learning magic intellectually, through studying books, learning formulas, discussing concepts and theories. I see them looking a bit like the first greek philosophers or first physicists, trying to describe the world and rules that govern it.

Whereas Clerics undergo a more mystical training, pass through religious rites and learn to use magic with the strength of faith rather than pure knowledge. They also use formulas, but see them as prayers rather than magic theorems.

Cool. So i have rules out of my way.

The other thing I find very important in making my world seem more pulpy fantasy is establishing the fact that gods don't have direct, obvious impact on the game's realia.

By that I mean, that clerics and religious organizations have impact on the game, however the gods won't ever step in and interact with the game world or worse - the PC's themselves. This seems to be an important premise in Howard's stories and I think I should keep it.

In the upcoming posts I will discuss my world's spiritual and religious background in more detail. Until then!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tonight Half-orcs vs. Halflings

So I've got elves and dwarves relatively out of the way. Mind you, they are not finished ideas, but for now they will do.

Ok, so it's time to tackle the little races, half-orcs and anything else I might allow for players.

Round one

Half orcs are really easy to get out of the picture. They are sterile, so there is no chance of multiplying and they are either killed at birth by humans, or brought up by orcs, and than they are simply treated like orcs.

Half -orcs aarrrre out!

Round two

I have a strong objection to halflings for the same reasons as J. Maliszewski. They are just too Tolkienesque. You can call one Mustakrakish the Bloody and in the minds of players he will still be a little furry hobbit (maybe covered with blood, but that's all).

The one noteworthy attempt at changing this state of affairs was Dark Sun, but since I want my game closer to the od&d, I think introducing dinosaur riding cannibal midgets as a player race might kill the whole effort.

Halflings arrrrrreee out!

Round three

As much as I dislike halflings, I love gnomes. I find several reasons to include them in my setting:

- having kicked halflings out, I feel I need to fill the hole somehow, so that the players have what to choose from;

- they actually appear in germanic mythologies (altho mostly used as a synonym for dwarf) and don't make people think of only one piece of work like halflings;

- I like the idea of them being a magical-technical race surrounded by a shroud of secrets and I think it goes well with the idea that they are mostly illusionists;

- since they are illusionists I see no reason why they can't be famous for their thievery skills, thus replacing halflings in case someone can only play little race thieves;

- putting them into my setting gives my a safety hatch, allowing me to introduce whacky magomechanics without blowing up the setting;

Having said all that, If I want to have gnomes I need to make them mysterious, exotic and secretive. Which is fine with me. For now I have little idea about their background, hopefully I'll come up with something interesting.

Gnomes win the match!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dwarven culture in a few difficult words

Ok, today I'll try to focus solely on the topic of dwarven culture. My idea of how it should be organized is a quite complicated one, but bare with me, as I hope you'll find it rewarding.

As I've already stated the dwarven society is a matriarchal one due to the small number of females. No one knows why the number of females being born is significantly smaller from the number of males, but it should be obvious that this long lasting phenomenon has led to a society in which women are highly privileged.

Here are some ideas I have about their society:

The society is organized into clans, which follow the rule of matrilineality , meaning that the lineage is established through the mother and maternal ancestors.

Dwarves cultivate polyandry. That is, one woman may take many husbands (in this case the maximum is 3), each of them however has to pay a dowry (or a lobolo if you prefer) before he is accepted as a husband.

The tradition has it, that such a fee must be payed only in what a male can carry by himself (counting what he wears). This might have given a beginning to the strange concept of dwarven money, which are shaped into spheres of gold, silver or copper, that are worn on display by being thread into beards, or worn as necklaces.

Dwarves are also avuncular. This means that a child is brought up not by it's father but maternal uncle. There are several reasons for that, the main one being to secure that all fathers will treat the child equally well (which of course doesn't work so well in real life) and to create a stronger bond with the clan, than with the family.

To avoid incest, dwarves are forbidden to marry into their own clan. This rule also secures the strong connection between the clans.

There exists a dwarven king, however his role is mainly representative. He is the leader of the Council of Clans, which appropriately to it's name consists of all the clan leaders (or their representatives, each of the clan leaders can bring all her husbands to join the discussion) with each of the council members, including the king, having one vote. The king also holds the title of the First Warrior. It means that in case of an armed threat to the dwarven kingdom, he becomes the leader of the armed forces, since the counsel has no word in matters of war.

The last thing is the problem of half-dwarves. It's obvious that my previous idea for that race doesn't fit this concept. Thus I need to turn it around a bit. Indeed half-dwarves aren't shunned by dwarven society, however as they can't participate in the reproductive cycle, their social status is rather low. Marrying outside the race is not forbidden, but it carries some social disadvantages, as the dwarf marrying a non-dwarf looses the privilege of being able to use the clan vaults and has to raise their child on their own.

The End

not yet! I wanted to say one more thing that I forgot to add. The slavic and nordic dwarfs stay, simply some clans lean one way and some the other. Is based on geographical location. That's all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dwarven Oddity

Today I'll speak about dwarfs and also continue some of the topics that surfaced in two previous posts.

The first of them is the problem of race-as-class. I've presented the main argument (apart from the one that it's the OD&D way of doing things) in favor of this rule when I was talking about elves. It simply underlines the difference between humans and fantastic races. Today I'd like to present the argument against the rule, which again helped me shape another demi-human race.

The argument I have in mind is the fact of homogeneity of demi-human cultures. Some might ask, what the fuck am I talking about?! What I want to say is that somehow we are stuck for better or worse with the stereotypical view of "one race = one culture".

You may object, by saying that many RPG's and settings have a lot of variation when it comes to demi-human subtypes. But a race subtype like for example drow, is often (correctly) called a sub-race, that is, one of the different races that together create the race group/category of elves, or so it would seem system wise.

A good example of this way of thinking is the treatment of elves in the Forgotten Realms 3e Handbook. We have 5 elven races, each with it's own distinct ability modifiers, however the descriptions point more to the difference on the cultural or lifestyle level, more than to any important morphological* differences, which would in my belief justify the ability mods. The exception here are the drow, due to their significantly different environment. The other problem is that the descriptions of different elven cultures are at leas laconic and amass to something like: "yellow elves are yellow and are scholars, green elves are green and fight, wood elves live in woods...", which isn't really any useful information to me.

I also find this whole approach unsatisfactory because it's logical continuation would be providing different ability modifiers for human nations. This solution is for me a dead end for three reasons. First, it's an unnecessary complication. Second, I don't see any significant morphological differences between the British, the French and The Germans and finally, I'd feel I might be getting dangerously close to racism.

But let's get back to the problem of cultural homogeneity.

I think that creating sub-races is the lazy approach that gives the illusion of variety instead of real choice. We might come up with an endless number of "dwarf types", call them Shield Dwarves, Doom Dwarves, Monkey Dwarves and so on... And even then 99% of players will end up role-playing all of them as an archetypical dwarf.

All this (and this ingenious post) led me to think that perhaps there are two cultures of dwarfs in my world. One are the classical nordic/tolikenish dwarfs, the other are the slavic dwarves. There is no morphological difference between them, thus they are treated equally in terms of mechanics.

The reason for introduction of those cultures is that I'm tired of having all the same dwarfs all around. Also, since I'm Polish and so are my players, the slavic dwarfs will be right at home, being a cultural archetype easy to relate to for all of us.

I've decided that, as a legend has it, at the beginning there were two brothers, who split the mining duties between themselves. One decided to go dig down into the mountains to find precious stones and unknown metals, the other decided to stay close to the surface, building quarries, coal mines and so on. There is no antagonism between two dwarf nations and all are considered equal, helping and trading with each other.

The last problem is of dwarven females. They exist, but in very small numbers, thus it's quite obvious that some dwarves have decided to marry human females thus bringing half- dwarves to the world. Unlike half-elves, their dwarven counterparts are accepted by their society, however they remain infertile.

The last thing is, because of the shortage of women, dwarven society has developed a very complicated matriarchal clan system. The head of each clan is a woman. I'm seriously considering introducing some kind of polygamy...

More on that to come!

*I mean the scientific term, as used in physical anthropology

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Half life of elves

Ok, so we know my elves are hermaphroditic, cool... Now what? Well... Before I give half-elves donkey heads and shave off dwarven beards I'd like to come back to the elves.

I've been thinking what impact my idea of elves might have on game play. I imagined my friends role playing an elf, about whom the rest of the party thought as being male, until the fertile phase starts, and the elf kicks into being a flirting woman! You see, to me it sounds like fun and a way of relieving tension. I also know that my friends will be treating the situation gently, with no vulgarity. However as I was looking at it in a wider perspective, I thought that perhaps not all people who want to play elves are comfortable with them being gender ambivalent.

Thus I want to implement a security buffer. Mainly, because the elves' hermaphroditic status is an effect of an experiment, there are still some cases of elves being unable to enter the gender-active phase as both sexes. This means, that for that time in the month, when their gender functions become active, they are always only a man, or a woman. This poses no true problem and is easy to hide in the elven society (since due to pheromonal negotiation the partner automatically will take the other sex), but can be looked down upon by other society members.

Ok. So simply, if you want your elf to be only a man, you can.

Now that we have this problem out of the way. Let's move to what this post is really supposed to be about.


I always wondered why the question of half-elven fertility isn't clearly answered in RPG handbooks. In Erthdawn or Shadowrun, the case of fantastic races cross breeding is resolved in a clever and simple way, the child of such union will just be the same race as one of the parents. As much as I like that solution, I don't think it will serve my world right.

Thus, the I've decided there are half-elves in my world, they are rare, not fertile and generally looked down upon by both elves and humans. Because of their elven ancestry there is rather small variation in the way both genders look, with males having very little, weak body hair, with a kind of gentle charm and females having no body hair, small breasts and generally being attractive in a way that some call alien.

I also consider giving half-elves an attribute bonus to charisma. My reasoning is that in my game, humans think of elves as weird and alien and not as beautiful. However I thought it would be interesting to make half-elves generally charming, but lacking in social status.

Next post -> Dwarfs

Friday, November 20, 2009

Those strange Elves

As you might know from my previous posts, I've assumed that in my development of a D&D setting, the themes of the setting itself will help me choose the rules I want to use. It seems that I was wrong. Since I last decided I'm leaning heavily towards OD&D, I've been doing some thinking about the race-as-a-class rule.

When I first came into possession of several D&D retro clones, the race-as-a-class idea was bothering me. I was always aware that it existed in the original game, but I guess just because I was used to not treating races as classes, the idea seemed simply unattractive and limiting.

Some time later, as I was reading some Grognardia, I found this article in which the author states:
"Aside from mechanical simplicity, what I really like about race-as-class, at least in the case of elves, is that it helps emphasize their differences from humanity."
It is a point I totally agree with. This and an other very good post from the same blog got me on the track of thinking how to differentiate demi-humans from other races.

Today I came up with the solution. It's not a revolutionary one (at least for me, I can imagine there are people that would behead me for what I'm about to say), as I've first encountered it in the 2ed. of WFRP, where the only elven deity is a hermaphrodite. There, I've said it. My elves are hermaphrodites.

The true source of the idea is one of my all time favorites "Left Hand OF Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin. One of the themes investigated in the novel is the problem of how sexuality and gender influence culture and political life. One of many strengths of the book is a very interesting depiction of the hermaphroditic race. Here's a quote from wikipedia:

"The inhabitants of Gethen are sequentially hermaphroditic humans; for twenty-four days of each twenty-six day lunar cycle they are sexually latent androgynes, and for the remaining two days (kemmer) are male or female, as determined by pheromonal negotiation with an interested sexual partner. Thus each individual can both sire and bear children. It is hypothesised by the first representatives of the Ekumen to explore Gethen that their unique physiology arose from a genetic-modification experiment."

I think the idea to apply this description to elven race is a very good one, especially that I've already found a way in which it might serve my "prime" setting assumptions. Namely, the experiment mentioned in the above quote, will be performed on the race by itself. I can easily see my image of eternal elves conquering the world, just to decide that it's not enough for them and since they are already immortal, they will try to ascend into godhood. However the experiment went wrong in the end also depriving the race of it's close to immortal status.

So there. I know it might be too much for some of you. And I don't blame you. This solution brings many problems into my setting, but I always liked to put "difficult topics" into my games...

Oh. Btw. I'm still not decided about race-as-class!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Little misunderstanding

I thought some time will pass, before I can say anything constructive about mechanics and yet, here I am.

The reason for this post is my latest blog discovery, which addressed many game-play/mechanics issues I was troubled with.

The set of custom house-rules presented is simple and well constructed, augmenting the basic Sword & Wizardry, which to my taste, seemed a bit too bare and (dare I say)too primitive(in the best OD&D sense).

Even though I don't agree with all the custom house rules presented in that package, it made me realize that my previous statement about mechanics was too hasty.

So to be clear: (for anyone reading this blog and for myself) I am much closer to adopting old-school rules than I thought. As I am an opponent of feats and list based skills, my D&D might actually be much closer to OD&D than I previously supposed.

That's All Folks!

Monday, November 16, 2009

If you want to make an apple pie from sratch, you must first create the universe

Yesterday I decided to make a set of, more or less, custom mechanics that will suit me best. However, I think I will need to give myself more time before I can post anything else on the topic, as I want my mechanics to be well thought out and coherent.

That is why I will start creating the game setting first. Hopefully the process of gradually building up ideas and putting them in order will also influence writing mechanics, clearing some controversies and making it fit the setting.

As I've stated before, my biggest influence now is the OD&D and it's roots in pulp fantasy fiction. I've also decided to take the approach of just outlining my world's realia and overall atmosphere without filling out many details beforehand. This seems to be the method that fits me best, since it enables me to give my players the feeling that I want our game to have, without over intellectualizing it or creating artificial political and cultural constructs that my players may never encounter.

Don't get me wrong, I like making stuff up, I just think that letting things develop organically is much more effective and in the end will make the setting feel more real (whatever that means).

Below are the basic assumptions for My World, (I'm not so good with names, any help would be greatly appreciated), please note that they might be subject to later change.
In no particular order:

1. Magic exists, however there is no division between arcane and divine magic. I see it as a flowing, chaotic undercurrent (dynamic, prime substance) on which the material world (static) is founded. This assumption leads us to the conclusion that clerics and wizards in fact don't use two different kinds of magic, but apply two distinct ways of shaping it.

I think that my wizards will be kind of a blend between Howardian evil sorcerers and pre-socratic philosophers.

In the social context, magic will be a power feared by common folk, often associated with evil practices and so on. There will be at least one state, where wizardry is banned.

Even though I want it to have quite a dark feel, I'd also like it to be rather widespread, as I don't want to deprive PCs of magic objects. That is why I came with the story presented in 2.

2. I want my game to take place in a dark and dangerous world that has it's best days behind it. I'm thinking of a transition period, where everything is seemingly cool, yet everyone knows that life is harder, people less trustworthy and the time of great empires and truly great deeds is gone.

I've also thought that I want my world to have some old ruins that will be cursed but filled with magic items and treasures that everyone is afraid to steal, being a great theme for adventures.

That is how I arrived at the idea of a great Empire that fell under it's own hubris and gluttony. They will be an equivalent of Roman Empire or the Ottoman Empire in my world. I'll also make it highly magical, thus giving the explanation why magic is quite popular yet feared (they won't be well remembered). I think that magic will also be the reason for the Empire's end, I have some magical über catastrophe or curse, wiping their power away, though I have no idea what it could be.

Also, I'm not too keen on the Vance'ian feeling of "Holy shit, the sun might die any minute now". Think more early medieval times, maybe 8th century Europe.

3. I quite dislike the idea of gods walking the earth in rpgs, but on the other hand, I'm not a fan of settings completely devoid of deities (they can sometimes prove conceptually interesting).

I also dislike the way many game designers treat gods, as if they are a mere addition (a good example would be 3e and 4e players handbooks), thus closing them in simple categories like god of war or goddess of love.

I think, that looking at the history of western culture (and in fact history of our world overall) religion took a very important place in shaping cultural behaviors and the way people thought for centuries. Thus I decided to create my own pantheon, that I hope will be more complicated than being a simple collection of Odin and Thor rip offs.

4. The last factor, is the presence or lack of demi-humans and in fact most fantastic races.

In the early moments of outlining my ideas in my head, I seriously considered dropping all demi-human races, but than I read this. That made me realize, that in fact, I would be needlessly limiting my players. So what I really need to do is to reinvent the classical tolkienish races.

My first thought was to place elves as the race that built the Evil empire (however I discovered that someone had already done that and now i feel stupid), that would give me a good excuse to place elves in seclusion in the woods, give them an inbuilt guilt and back to the roots profile, as well as limit their population in the world.

I also thought that because of the fall of their Empire and the magical curse/cataclysm, the elves had become not only mortal, but burdened with the problem of aging in a horrifying manner (altho their life spans would still be much longer than human).

The other problem are the dwarfs, since from my experience players tend to view them through one archetype (which is sad, but difficult to change). I've found J. Maliszewski's take on dwarfs very nice, but I'd feel super bad about copying that (since I already feel a bit guilty about the elves).

As to Halflings or Gnomes, I have no ideas yet. I thought about dumping them in favor of a race of frog-men which I came up with some time ago, but I'm not sure if it wouldn't be better to use them as an addition...

Anyway. Those are my basic ideas for the game world. In posts to come, I plan on discussing them in more detail.

art by Frank Frazetta

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This is where I'm at...

As I said in the previous post, before my game begins, I would like to outline the setting my adventure will take place in and the system of mechanics I will use. Since I was reading a lot of blogs bout D&D, I was certain I want to play that system in some kind of a fantasy setting. But before I went on to establish more details, I asked myself what atmosphere and flavor will my game have?

Do I want a game revolving around combat, or storytelling?

Should the setting be a high magic one or a low magic world?

Do I want epic, high adventure, where characters save the world from great evil, or should they be mere mortals, struggling to survive in dark, difficult times?

The answer came from discovering the old school D&D revival movement. The idea of bringing D&D back to it’s roots instantly clicked with me. Even though I’ve never played the original D&D, the experiences of the modern day gaming industry - the present trend of overemphasizing rules and copying mmorpgs (damn you 4e.!), is enough for me to sympathize with anyone who stands by the old ways.

As I was digging deeper into the OD&D scene, I stumbled upon some great articles (namely here and here) outlining the literary inspirations behind the original game. I found the concept of a pulp fantasy game, created by James Maliszewski, especially useful in putting my mind on the right track (the right track = reading Jack Vance, digging up my long forgotten Robert E. Howards). Thus I’ve decided that I want my game to have a darker, raw feel, much in the atmosphere of early Conan adventures, with PCs having to stand against an unfriendly and dangerous world. I’ve also pondered on how magical my world will be. I’ve decided that magic will be much feared and more associated with danger and evil, but all in all not very difficult to find (I do want my players to get magical treasure). Having accomplished that and having read Jack Vance’s Eyes of the Overworld, I came up with an idea of a world that is already over it’s prime, one that used to be populated by some powerful magical civilization which failed and fell under it’s own hubris. I think that is enough for now.

On the mechanics side of things, the encounter with Grognardia made me look for OD&D retro clones like Swords & Wizardry and OSRIC. I’ve dug through them and decided that in fact being unaccustomed to these rules, using them, as they are, would be unintuitive and might in fact slow the game down, instead of making it simpler. I gave that problem some thought, went through all D&D editions available and asked myself; what would be the most intuitive solution for me and my gamers? I arrived at the conclusion that most of my future players are well accustomed with d20 mechanics, it also struck me that using one dice for most rolls and checks would be least confusing to new players. However, my distaste for such 3e. table sprouting features as feats and huge lists of skills, led me to thinking that in fact the 3e. needs a lot of modifications. The final (I hope) conclusion is that I’ll try to make up my own d20 system, which will be more in tune with my recent old school interests.

Summing up. In posts to come I will try to focus on the description of new mechanics, that I am going to use in my game, as well as the description of the game’s setting.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Come with us now for a jorney through time and space

Elves ate my homework is my take on the idea of a gaming blog. Truth be told, I've never thought that blogs could be of any use to me... That is, until fishlemons told me about Zak S' blog. I read it and got instantly hooked. That blog is well written, contains loads of super ideas and is very enjoyable. It also became a gateway to other gaming blogs, opening me up to a community I've never realized existed. All the great material I've been exposed to has reawakened my interest in playing RPGs, a hobby I thought "I grew out of". Having read Grognardia and other blogs, I've realized that I still want to play D&D, I just don't have the right people to play with. Luckily that has changed too, as fishlemons became interested in playing (mainly thanks to Zak S).

So, now I'm preparing to once again lead a game. As I'm trying to put together a group of people who will be as enthusiastic to the idea of playing D&D as we are, some questions have arisen.

What will the setting be?

What rules/edition to use?

Will I suck?

I want this blog to serve as a platform for sharing and discussing ideas and solving gaming problems. I will also update on my game's progress, once it gets started.