New Campaign Setting

February 6, 2014

The World in Brief:

Ten centuries ago, the world was home to thriving civilizations. The “civilized” races, humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and hobgoblins, had spread across much of the world. The nations of the world were, if not always friendly, at least generally at peace. There was active trade, and magic and alchemy and metallurgy were maturing as studies.

The Silver Imperium was the largest of the human nations. It was a theocracy devoted to a goddess of civilization. It was the bread basket of the continent, the Imperial Marshalls acted as peace keepers every where the Imperial road ran. They created magical marvels to rival the gods.

The hubris of the Imperium was the beginning of the end. The Arcane Congress, the greatest research organization in the world, brought about the fall of the Nations. An unremembered experiment forged a rift into the heart of the Abyss, Before the last survivors of the Congress were able to seal the rift, a portion of the endless demon hordes of the abyss had spilled through. The nations of the world aligned to face the hordes. They fell. The gods themselves rode to battle and, thought they overthrew the Demon Lords, it took all of their power to seal them away. With the armies of the world shattered and the gods no longer abroad in the world, many of the powers of the world who had lain dormant came back.

The world was scarred where gods and demons fell,  great dragons left their fastnesses, the spirits of the land awoke and rose again, the Barbarian tribes of the orcs rode out of their mountain fortresses, plagues wracked the land, and necromancers and dark cults were free to act unchallenged by the forces of order. Most of the cities fell, and the few that didn’t were often besieged. None of the great nations survived, and many of the populations that did did so by allying with various powerful creatures and groups.

Civilization held on as points of flickering light in a vast darkness.

Humans lived across the lands, often oppressed by greater beings. For the last two centuries various human groups have been organizing and challenging the darkness. As the demons have fallen, one by one, humans have grouped up and started to form new nations. They have joined together in a group called “The New Alliance.” that is starting to push back the borders of the chaos plaguing the world.

The gnomes abandoned their cities and moved to the deep jungles of the south. They spread out in small tribes guided by powerful druids and hunted demons in the wilds. They joined the New Alliance to provide magical might and experience in slaying demons.

As the great war grew hotter, the Elves retreated further and further into their forest fortresses. They wove great magics that kept the worst of the nightmares at bay, at least until the Demon Lord Gratzz’s cultists discovered or created the Grey Wasting. The plague spread through the forests of the elves, infecting elf and killing all but the youngest few. At the same time, it made the survivors much more fertile. It created a nation of children and teenagers who died by their 120th birthdays. A few older elves comitted vast sins and turned themselves into liches in order to buy time to search for a cure and to preserve some of their cultures. About 300 years ago, the elven liches found a cure and spread it through the population. The elves are still recovering, and the Council of Liches still guides their lives.

The Dwarves split their forces. Half went to fight in the Great War beside the other races. The other half evacuated their surface cities and began converting their under ground fortresses into gigantic death traps. Eighteen fortresses sealed themselves away from the world, and 13 survived the dark years. Dwarven fortifications have advanced the whole time, and of all the civilized races, they have maintained the most of their society.

Halflings fought bravely against the demons, but they never numbered well. They were captured by many of the forces of darkness and they were an almost invisible slave caste. They lived as serfs and slaves in small villages, mostly ignored. It was this status that allowed them to organize a spy network that was essential to the New Alliance. Halfling spies, assassins, and saboteurs played a key role in much of the liberation of the lands.

Hobgoblin society fell, their warriors fighting to the last beside the human legions. The surviving hobgoblins integrated into the hordes of evil humanoids, setting themselves up as leaders of the numberless goblin tribes. They have become more brutal over the years, and while they have been instrumental in driving back the invading entities, they did not do so in concert with the New Alliance. Hobgoblins have been gathering into a dark society, overlords of tribes of goblins and bugbears, walking beside the twisted nature spirits that were poisoned by the deaths of the demon lords.

The game starts in a small fortification on the edge of one of the kingdoms of the New Alliance. The Keep is the furthest reach of the rebuilding civilizations. Beyond it are the chaos scarred lands that were once part of the Silver Imperium, including the scar of the Abyssal rift, fallen and defiled shrines, ruined cities, and hordes of monsters.

Thoughts about my D&D game:

September 21, 2013

I am done with the individual xp experiment. Pretty sure I am going with static xp so we don’t have spreads of 10% or more. Which I guess kills the incentive for the players to do their IC posts, but I’ll trade that in for “no party level gap.”
I’m not really sure how to deal with some of the game’s problems… We have such a short play time, the scenario I put together for the first two sessions just took 6 or 7.
The problems I’m seeing are:
We’ve drifted from starting at 7 to starting closer to 8:30 or 9. That foreshortens the pre-game social time which tends to make it leak into game time making everyone more distractable.
The shorter sessions mean that we tend to only have one or possibly two encounters a night, which causes them to tend toward set-piece fights instead of smaller fights and social encounters, and the small number of encounters per night means that if, from a fun standpoint, if an encounter doesn’t go well, there is no real chance of fixing the session.

We are suffering from a lot of analysis paralysis as the party tries to find ways to take only actions that are optimally likely to succeed. Or even worse “this is the most likely thing to succeed, so I will do it instead of the other things that are less likely, and I will do it over and over again” because that analysis doesn’t change from round to round.

The current party mix is Debuff Bard/Rogue/Control+Tank Fighter/Combat Priest/Warlock/Barbarian (in theory)

The debuff bard means I really really have to keep track of (and include) more creatures that speak her language since outward facing language requiring abilities work less often than the inward ones.

We seldom have more than 4 players, and never the barbarian (I miss having the barbarian).

That means that the rogue is the primary damage dealer absent the barbarian. The fighter doesn’t do a lot of damage unbuffed, though he is tanking pretty well, he tends not to use his control abilities unless the situation is optimal.

I’d like to get the party moving around a bit more in combat. That probably means more active battle fields and opponents that adopt wolf pack tactics on occasion.

I’m also facing the problem that all of the grid based editions of D&D have. My party tends to try and break things into round by round grid actions, even out of combat. (Well, social is pretty good, but chases and skill challenges and such are still a problem. The answer, I think, is doing more of that sort of thing.)

Getting complaints about lack of social stuff, but a lot of that is the small number of encounters a night. The current adventure had 3 scenes.

“Get to town and stop the monsters attacking the people outside the walls.”

“Go into the keep and help save the guards outside the inner walls escape the Destrachan”

“Stop the Destrachan.”

Scene 1 was combatty with some talking and a bunch of opponents who were susceptible to the bard and the warlock’s powers.
Scene 2 was a skill challenge that had some people doing tactical things and some doing social things (going out and sneaking around and motivating groups of trapped people to get them to safety)

Scene 3 was a boss fight. 

In a single session, all of that would have been a good mix. It took 3 and a half sessions to do over 5 weeks. Didn’t feel like a mix at all.

13 Tricks: A (potentially nomic) card game

September 15, 2013

13 Tricks

This is a Draft based trick taking game for 2 or more players.
1 deck of identically backed cards without jokers per 4 players.


Shuffle each deck, then shuffle the decks together.

Deal 13 cards to each player.

Each player takes 1 card from their stack and passes it to the left.

This continues until everyone has 13 cards.


Each player shuffles their deck and draws 5 cards from it.

Determine the first lead player (RPS works nicely, as does oldest, youngest, etc).

The lead player plays a card, which determines the suit. Play progresses to the Leader’s left.
The player who wins the trick, gets a point. (See trick rules below)

After playing a card, you must, if possible, draw a new card

After each turn the player to the left of the lead player becomes the next turn’s lead player.

At the end of the game, the player with the most tricks wins.

Trick Rules:

The Natural Order of Things

The cards are, in increasing value, A,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K

Aristotelian Opposition

Hearts oppose Clubs

Diamonds oppose Spades

The Rich Get Richer

Within the current suit, high card wins.

The Low Road:

A 2,3, or 4 of the opposition suit is called “The Low Road” and the Low Road beats a J,Q or K of the current suit, but are beaten by any other card of the active suit except an ace.

A 2 on the low road is beaten by a 3 which is beaten by a 4

An Ace does not beat any card, but it changes the active suit to the ace’s face. The only way an ace wins is if no one plays any cards of the ace’s suit. On the other hand, it can be played to ensure another player doesn’t win the hand.

I Want to Make You an Offer:

Table deals are encouraged.

I Was Here First:
In the case of a tie, the player closest to the Lead’s left wins the trick.

Let’s See What Happens

It is considered bad form to remind any player of the trick rules before the winner of a hand is determined.

Nom Nom Nomic? (Optional Rule)

The Winner of the hand may create a new trick rule or change an existing one (except this one.)

August 11, 2013

Two things I have been noticing with my friday night game of Pathfinder:

It takes a bit of work to get modern D&D players to get comfortable with gridless play… It took a lot of work to make me comfortable with not having every part of an area mapped out either, but there are many things that work better if we don’t have an explicit map of a whole region (caves, sewers, mazes, the wilderness, city streets…)
Instead explicitly mapping the whole thing, the better solution is to map the important encounter areas. That way you can be a lot more flexible. It is similar to the Dresden Files city building. You deal with entire sections of a city by defining an important area and person that sets the tone. The problem is that since I have a map that is set up in measured squares, certain types of players want the whole world to be measured in the same sort of defined grid.

The other thing, and I love games like The Dresden Files game for it, is that it takes a lot of effort to get your players to make up parts of the world as they need them. I asked my players to come up with a place where they were living and I was asked if I wanted them to read all the books so they’d know what was avaliable in setting… The whole point is that the setting is done in broad strokes and they can make up all sorts of things that fit between those strokes. (Of course, a 1930s style New York Firestation with a giant nuclear reactor in the bottom level? Alas does not fit within the broad strokes of the Eberron setting.

Na Essad Review

August 5, 2013

So I went through my blog posts and decided to pull out all of my Na Essad posts as a prelude to thinkng more about the setting:
Originally I called it “The Fire Cave Project” but eventually the cave was renamed to Na Essad, which means, roughly, Stone Trap.

My initial thoughts on what I wanted to do with the setting:


Origin Stories:

Na Essad Cosmology:

Na Essad Origin Take 2 This is done in an in universe voice:


Rules of the World:

Summoning Magic in Na Essad:



Na Essad Gods

A general discussion of how dieties work in Na Essad:

More specifically the kinds of resident deities you might find int he caverns:

Here is a somewhat sinister divinity that was inspired by the new Dr Who…


Organizations and Communities


Places and Features:

Monsters of Na Essad


Earth’s Empires Places

July 12, 2013

The Library of Yar

The Aldoni know of thousands of Predecessor sites, most of which they give wide berth and encourage the other races to do the same. There are several score that are on the forbidden grounds list of the Aldoni Accords, places where it means annihilation for a ship and for the world that ship hails from to approach. There are a few locations though of such danger to the very fabric of reality that they are listed nowhere in any record except in the great mind cores of the Aldoni worlds. The Library of Yar is one such location.

Deep within the galactic dead zone, the Library was created by one of the earliest of the Predecessors, a race ten billion years dead, so long gone that they were barely rumors to the last Predecessor races. Their Library though, it outlasted them. The Librarians, for whom no other name is known, were one of the races who developed acausal computing. They explored the arts of paradox and simulation and found the secrets of time travel. But their interest was not in the world that is/was/will be, it was in all of the worlds that never were. They collected in their library all of the books never written.  The Library spans a structure the size of a world, a series of thousands of concentric spheres containing rows upon rows of books. The organization of the library made sense to the creators, but none to any one who has ever found their way into the library. It contains books of history that were never written, either because the history did not happen, or because the history happened to the author in a fatal manner. The Librarians’s form of time travel allowed them to observe and catalog, but they did not stop with the pasts that were or the futures that would be. They followed all of the decision points throughout the long history of the galaxy and recorded all of the books that could have been but weren’t. Travel within the library is not linnear. A path that lead to a particular place on one trip may well not lead to that same place in future trips, and the Aldoni believe that sections of the library are connected by some form of “instantaneous” transit to other identically constructed structures hidden throughout the galaxy. The shells themselves are supported by materials that break the laws of physics that are maintained by reality changing devices. If the rules of the universe were ever to reestablish firm control within the Library, it is likely that it would collapse in on itself under its own gravity.


June 7, 2013

Born long ago in the dwarven enclave of city of Kalsgard in the land of the Linnorm Kings, Morgrym wished to grow to be one of his people’s warrior-skalds. He progressed rapidly under the tutelage of his teacher, and had learned the history poems and eddas of his people before his fiftieth birthday. He fought beside the great warriors of his time, until the day he and his master came across an ice giant. He was instructed to stay out of the fight, and to his shame he did. His master fought the giant while reciting the Edda of Deeds, never missing a beat while fighting a foe many times his size. The fight was glorious, but the giant bested the lone dwarf. Morgrym was wracked with shame at leaving his master to fight the giant even though that was what he had been told to do. Once his master’s foe left, he constructed a great cairn of rock over his body and swore that his cowardice would no longer stain the honor of the Skalds.

Morgrym left his axe and his armor and most of his gear in the cairn with his master and left to wander the world. He avoided settlements in his travels and finally stopped when he found a stone grotto at the base of a waterfall in the mountains of Varisia. He felt home and at peace for the first time since the death of his master. Morgrym spent years creating a small stone hut with rocks he found in his wandering around the mountains. He spent the next century alone, watching the world around his grotto, learning the ways of the mountain ash and the snow tiger. He stayed true to his vow and never spoke the great epics of his people.

Then, 5 years ago, on his  200th birthday, Morgrym saw three purple lights streak through the sky, two of them exploding concurrently in the shape of a great butterfly. The third appeared to come to ground far to his south. Morgrym tidied up his hut, scattered the provisions he had that he couldn’t carry with him, and began walking south. On his way, he found a Snow Tiger cub whose mother had been killed in an avalanche. He soothed the small beast and brought it with him. He traveled for weeks until he found where the shooting star had struck the ground. In the center of the crater, there was a nodule of pure Iron, melted and reformed in the heat of its fall through the sky, but now cooled. He collected it and continued walking. He stumbled upon a forge shrine to Torag and had a vision of himself with an axe forged from the nodule of metal he was holding. He spent a year and a day at the shrine, relearning the skills he had once held dear and eventually forging a cold iron battle axe for himself. In that time he forged a bond with his tiger-companion and his visions began coming more frequently, instructing him in the ways of the druids. Once he was ready Morgrym’s visions urged him to travel southward, eventually leaving him here. Though now an old dwarf, Morgrym is ready to put his previous life behind him and begin anew.

Earth’s Empires tech

April 15, 2013

While the technology exists, flying cars are a rarity on most worlds in most times in the setting. That said, the skies over the cities of humanity are not empty. In most places the air contains both government and civilian surveillance drones.

The civillian drones are semi-autonomous flyers that circle in great clouds above the buildings, searching both optical and radio frequencies, pattern matching inputs in hope of discovering news worthy stories. Occasionally one will alert its minder of a potential story and get the ok to investigate. When that happens, the graceful wing meshes that it used to stay afloat above the city collapse into a sleeker, high speed form that is used for close in reconnisance. From the cloud of flyers, first one will drop , then as confirmation of interest becomes stronger, more and more will follow until you have a score of surveillance vehicles or more scanning an area. Of course, high speed reconnisance is not now you develop a story, so there is a final deployment phase. The craft reforms itself one last time, baring recording and communication equipment, becoming once again a flying wing, and finally deploying a quad rotor system to enable quiet and stable recording as well as the ability to follow a subject closely.

A larger event, shots fired, a large accident, anything with a large visual or audio component can cause hundreds of camera drones to descend upon the region. It is often possible to reconstruct a complete record of events after the first fifteen to thirty seconds

Space Traders

April 14, 2013

          So one of my projects this term is a game where you fly a space ship from star to star trading goods. The game itself has no explicit goals. One of the key points of the game is that the economy shift as you trade. When you buy goods in a location the price there increases and when you sell them the price decreases in hat region. At the same time, other traders are wandering the galaxy performing their own trades, so some times you will get back from a long trade route and find that the price of  good has changed a lot while you were gone.
          One of the key aspects of the game is that each planet in the galaxy has its own image, all of which are procedurally generated… 

To do this, first I create an array of blank bitmaps to use as color fills in the draw circle function in AS. Then each bitmap is filled with pixel colors taken from an array. The arrays are each 100 entries long and the program takes a random walk through the array to select the colors. Every step through the array is used to set the color of two pixels, and the arrays are set up so that two adjacent positions are likely to have the same or similar colors. These two things combine to make sure that there are relatively large color features on the selected planets. If the walker gets to an end of the array, it is placed in a random position in the interior. My arrays aren’t perfect, but the better the array the more interesting the resulting planets. The more colors you have and the further those colors are from each other, the more likely the planet is to look like it is tv static. The format I’m using is:

["array_name", 0xFFFFFF, 0xFFFFFF, 0xFFFFFF, 0xFFFFFF, 0xFFFFFF, 0xFFFFFF, ..., 0xCCCC00, 0xCCCC00]

With 100 hexadecimal entries defining that array’s pallet and the relative frequency of colors and the name in the zero position telling me what the goal for that array is.

The Core of Fate

March 15, 2013

Far out in the depths of the astral sea, well beyond the regular travel ways there is a single small rock. On the rock is a stone arch, the only gate to an isolated demi-plane.  The gate stands cold and dead, silent in the face of the multiverse. Those who would walk the stacks of the Core of Fate must first find the way to open the gate, knowledge held by few among the whole span of reality.

Once they pass through the gate the seeker is faced by the expanse of the Core. The gate is surrounded by the muted roar of thousands of illusionary images speaking or shouting or raging words in all the languages of the multiverse. Before each image stands a pale humanoid of non-distinct aspect. Each one writes the words spoken by the illusion it stands before. As soon as the image stops speaking, it fades and its scribe drops the completed scroll. Before the scroll reaches the ground, tiny mechanical servitors dart among the asiles and grab the scroll. They rush out of the realm of the scribes and enters the stacks. They rush down thousands of thousands of rows of shelves made of identical square nooks until they find an empty hole to place their scroll into. There are shining steel entities, mechanical angles in the forms of the various sentients of the multiverse. They stand sentinel among the stacks and the scribes. Though they they always appear to be at the edge of your attention, anyone who approaches the scribes finds themselves facing a pair of sentinels. While the scribe is still writing, the sentinels protect them with their lives. In the rare occurrence that two sentinels do not suffice to stop an interruption, as each one falls, two more appear. As soon as the scribe drops its scroll, the sentinels depart. Every time a new illusion forms, a single scribe is there to write, and each time a scribe begins writing a new nook appears out in the stacks and the realm increases in size by the slightest margin.

Magic is much less effective in the Core of Fate, half of the power of any spell is drained by the very structure of the space, diverted to power the greater guardians of the demi-plane. Divination magic that is cast in or that impinges upon the demi-plane immediately fizzles, and as a caster tries to cast divinations, the guardians begin to manifest around him. If enough power is spent trying to preform divination, the guardians will completely manefest and consume the caster.

Even the most powerful of magics do little good. The most that even a wish can do is provide the caster with a single specific scroll, and the power of the spell is enough to raise a host of guardians against the caster.

Each scroll represents a single prophecy made by a seer somewhere in the multiverse. Not every prophecy is true, or more accurately, not every prophecy comes to occur, and many events that are the focus of prophecy are the focus of multiple opposing prophecies. Many of the prophets that are recorded here may even be stating prophecies that are part of branches that have already been cut off. The only form of recording information that works within the demiplane is the pens and scrolls of the scribes. Not even mortal memory functions here well enough to accurately recall a prophecy well enough to transcribe it usefully once off the demi-plane.

A visitor may safely walk the rows of shelves and may even take a single scroll. The problem is that finding a specific scroll is nearly impossible, the collection covers all of the prophecies that have been spoken by any being anywhere in the multiverse and the number that exist expand much faster than even an army could read.

If a scroll of prophecy is found by hand and carried out through the gate at the center of the demi-plane, they may leave with the scroll, but an hour after leaving the demi-plane it dissolves and reappears in a random empty nook. In the few cases that one of these scrolls has been successfully bound to a location, some of the larger guardians appeared where it was bound to lay waste to everything around the scroll and to break the bindings that keep it there.

Those who violate the rules and escape the plane are followed by assorted hunting beasts that are capable of shifting from plane to plane. Though the hunters are often fairly week, once they find their prey, they can bray and summon the greater guardians of the realm.

Those who are killed in the demi-plane or by the various hunting guardians of the plane have their souls returned to the demi-plane and are then reformed into a creature of the demi-plane.


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