Friday, March 29, 2013

World of Samardan: A Location Description Template...

Good Afternoon, All:

Starting next week, I'll be posting a number of location descriptions for the World of Samardan campaign setting. In order to capture my basic thoughts on format, I thought it might be good to present my basic template for the entries, and see if there's any input on organization, details, etc. Some of you may recognize the basic template elements from its inspiration, a Gnome Stew article entitled Quick and Dirty Location Template.

(Hex) Location Name

{If this is a settlement...} Population, (primary race). Ruler (descriptor). Resources.
Ambiance: A brief description that conveys look and feel, to encourage flavorful descriptions in-game. Also includes role or activities for settlements.
History: No more than three sentences on the history of the region.
Encounters: Describe at least three factions, challenges or obstacles that are common on this site (lone monster, sentients and one other), and the goals of each, where appropriate. Think about significant herbivore, predator, scavenger, hazard, humanoid and/or exotic encounters.
Treasure: Optional. Describes any unique or notable treasures found here. Also include intangibles that may prove helpful on a bigger scale.
Adventure Hooks: Three to five single-sentence adventure hooks or player goals. Drop hints about location's secrets here.

My initial list of locations for the A to Z Challenge are as follows:

  1. Ancient Arena of Drakpada (ruins): Bloodthirsty primitives hold gladiatorial combat in this arena, although an entire underground complex rests under it, waiting to be explored.
  2. Bridge of Pulsok (ruins): Ruins of a city of the Ancient Ones that connects the wastelands of either side of the Blendel for those who would travel by land.
  3. Caverns of Morasorat (ruins): Cave system rumored to hold an ancient mercenary's secret "Deadly Gold" treasure trove, hidden in its depths.
  4. Deval, Guardian of the Gate: Deval was once a small village overlooking the pass between the upper and lower valleys, but has grown as its role and importance has increased over the years.
  5. Estate of the Four Winds (resource): This terraforming site is an air purification plant, protected by still-functioning automatons.
  6. Fallen Freehold of the Damraganu (ruins): Originally a stronghold built by a warlord who called himself the Damraganu ("blood"+"emperor"), these ruins remain abandoned due to the Blood Curse laid upon it with the Damraganu's death.
  7. Garsol, Citadel of the Mountains: Garsol is a large military city that grew around a mountainside citadel.
  8. Hurashand Woods (resource): These woods are particularly fruitful and provide both good timber and regular fruit crops. Local bandits, comprised primarily of escaped slaves, dwell under the canopy, and make life difficult for those who encroach on their domain.
  9. Isle of Shattered Temples (ruins): Also known as Tutarami Island, this is the site of an untold number of shrines and temples devoted to staving off the death of the world, continually being constructed by a compulsive sect of Rakrani Cultists.
  10. Justiciar's Vault (ruins): Also known as the Darmangumbad, this dome of the Ancient Ones is one of a few sites where Husrani tribes dispense judgment on those who have performed great offenses. Offenders are dropped down slanted shafts into the depths of the Vault, where the accused generally meet their doom. Should they survive and escape, however, the accused are considered innocent by virtue of Trial by Ordeal.
  11. Kolgrat, City of Marble: Kolgrat was originally a walled mining settlement that has become known for its rare and exquisite marble.
  12. Lusagar, the Shining Mountain (resource): This large mountain is very rich in veins of gold. The region is infested with lasirshuni (large three-headed winged reptile with poisonous spit and a fear of fire).
  13. Mermak, City on the Moors: Originally a trading post on the edge of the Granmer swamp, Mermak is now a large thriving township not far from the shores of Milpand.
  14. Nobium, Tower of the Ancient Ones: Lying on the outskirts of ancient ruins, Nobium is the settlement of the only major structure to have survived from days long ago, that of a tall arcology.
  15. Orkelium, the Forked Tower (ruins): This unusual tower of the Ancient Ones has almost impossible angles and unusual extensions, resembling a dead tree more than a true spire. Portions of the Orkelium still have residual power, based on lights seen though windows in certain sections.
  16. Pordel, City of the Gorbani Roosts: Pordel is a city known for the quality of its flying mounts (gorbani), many of which roost along the chasm walls against which the city was built.
  17. Quartz Fields of Kreggar (resource): Power crystals are particularly abundant in this mountainous region, as well as non-charged crystalline structures, primarily quartz. Sadly, rough winds and treacherous paths make it dangerous to travel to and from this region.
  18. Ramgrat, the Holy City: Ramgrat has been a holy city, devout in its worship of the Ancient Ones and their war machines, since its foundation.
  19. Suknat, City of Markets: Suknat was originally a small marketplace that sprang up to serve a "heavy" agrarian locale, but has since grown into a renowned trade city.
  20. Torkobalem, City-State of Crystals: Torkobalem is a city located in a region rich with valuable minerals. It seeks to control the region's power crystals.
  21. Umadasag, Prison of the Unwise (ruins): Formerly an asylum used by a forgotten mystical society to treat members who had suffered mental anguish in the pursuit of their psychic powers, this institution fell to plague. The region has been quarantined ever since.
  22. Valdren, City-State of Staves: Located on the edge of the Dulamader, the great city-state of Valdren is known for the exceptional quality of its exotic woods.
  23. Wild Woods of Loganka (resource): This forested region contains a number of plants of great medicinal value, but it is also the home of a great hive of danrakkomi (dog-sized insectile creatures with an acidic bite and a telepathic hive-mind).
  24. Xenolith of Devapand (resource): An unusual rock formation marks the located of a set of natural springs that provide fresh water to the creatures of the area. The site proves to be a natural watering hole for many wild animals, including predators.
  25. Yatdros, the Wandering Palace (ruins): A floating building of the Ancient Ones, adrift over the Torafeldan, and only accessible by flight.
  26. Ziggurat of Moradan (ruins): Also known as Moradan's Folly, this ancient structure has been the site of many deaths in the name of greed. The warlord Moradan, convinced that great wealth lay deep within the ziggurat, led numerous expeditions within, only to emerge with a handful of survivors unwilling to speak of the untold horrors they witnessed. None have dared enter the structure after Moradan failed to return from his last trip within, although other warlords occasionally jest at mounting an expedition themselves to go after the fabled treasure.

In addition to the above, I will also detail two other resource locations, one offering good hunting, and another good livestock. These will be done in the month of May, as will all of the lair locations I'll put on the map. I hope this helps. Personally, I'm pretty eager to get started.

With Regards,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

World of Samardan: Random Character Name Generation...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

As I've mentioned before, one of the goals I cited for this project was to use a naming language to create consistent names for the World of Samardan campaign setting. Pulling from the PDF article mentioned in the link I just provided, I came up with a set of random charts I believe I can use to create personal names as I detail the NPCs that populate the locales I'll be describing. Below are the basic tables:

Table: Random Proper Name Generation
d6Name Generation Method

Table: Random Proper Name Adjectives
11bamo ("flowering")
12bana ("raptor-like")
13bura ("bear-like")
14deva ("divine, holy")
15draka ("serpent-like")
16forta ("strong-willed")
21gata ("feline-like")
22gran ("famous")
23hada ("young")
24hiko ("laughing")
25hura ("free")
26kana ("wolf-like")
31kasa ("victorious")
32kina ("sharp")
33kudisa ("blessed, sacred")
34loba ("beloved")
35loga ("compassionate, kind")
36lusa ("shining")
41mal ("small")
42muda ("wise")
43mur ("bitter")
44nagan ("of war")
45peka ("strong")
46pod ("powerful")
51raga ("noble")
52rana ("manly")
53rapa ("swift")
54reka ("wealthy")
55sada ("happy")
56safa ("pure")
61sana ("protecting")
62sema ("first")
63smara ("bear-dog-like")
64suma ("devout, loyal")
65tama ("valuable, worthy")
66vira ("brave, valiant")

Table: Random Proper Name Nouns
11bal ("spear")
12bam ("flower")
13blad ("sword")
14dan ("earth")
15devi ("Gods")
16ganan ("mercenary, warrior")
21haran ("runner")
22hen ("son")
23kad ("arrow")
24kan ("wolf")
25keran ("steward")
26kusan ("diplomat")
31loban ("lover")
32logan ("healer")
33lus ("brightness, light")
34madan ("smith")
35mader ("forest, woods")
36minan ("leader")
41mit ("hammer")
42mot ("pearl")
43nakan ("maid")
44natan ("farmer")
45par ("gate")
46ragan ("ruler")
51ran ("man")
52rani ("people")
53sam ("battle, skirmish")
54sanan ("defender, protector")
55shand ("staff")
56sumaran ("honorable warrior")
61sunan ("giver")
62tor ("rock")
63tur ("stronghold")
64yaran ("counselor")
65yatan ("traveler, wanderer")
66yevan ("bearer")

You should be able to use this system to generate a lot of different names. For example, here are some common male and female names from the United States, translated by meaning into the Samardan tongue:

Table: Common Names Translated
English NameMeaningSamardan Name
Addison"Daughter of Adam (Man)" or "Earth"Rankahena or Dankahena
Alexander"Protector of Mankind"Ranikasanan
Anthony"Priceless, valuable"Tama
Ava"Blooming" or "Bird-like"Bamo or Bana
Elijah"The Strong God"Pekadevi
Elizabeth"Consecrated to God"Devikudisa
Isabella"Consecrated to God"Devikudisa
Madison"Mighty Warrior's Son"Sumaranhen
Matthew"Gift of God"Devikasun
Michael"Who is Like God" -> "Holy, divine"Deva
Olivia"Kind One"Loga
William"Valiant Protector"Virasanan

Female Names: Female names must always end in -a. If a generated name ends in a consonant, simply add the -a suffix. (Ex. "Yaran" -> "Yarana") If a female name ends in a vowel other than -a, add a suffix of -ba to the end of the name to signify femininity. (Ex. "Bamo" -> "Bamoba")

Male Names: Male names cannot end in -a. If a generated name ends in -a, change the -a ending to a -o, instead. (Ex. "Vira" -> "Viro") Alternately, you could try adding a -r to the end of the name, if it sounds better. (Ex. "Tama" -> "Tamar")

Full Names

In the World of Samardan, as in our own world, people are often known by more than just their proper name. I suspect that I'll end up sticking with the tried and true fantasy conventions for names:

Table: Full Name Format
d4Full Name Format
1First-Name (the) Nickname (or Nickname First-Name)
2First-Name (the) Occupation
3First-Name (of) Location
4Title First-Name (or First-Name (the) Title)

While you can use a naming language to create nicknames, occupations and certain titles (like Devalogan for "Holy-Healer"), most of the Planetary Romance literary sources doesn't really carry names out that far. Aside from a handful of noble titles, authors typically use English words in a majority of cases. When a true surname is desired, simply generate a second first name, modify for flavor and arrange to taste. For the most part, though, my efforts here will typically fall in the above patterns.

With that in mind, it's time to turn my attention to some forward motion on this project. It looks like I need to get organized, so I can tackle the rest of the campaign development with a stronger sense of focus and direction.

More Next Time,

Monday, March 25, 2013

World of Samardan: Rough Draft of Regional Map...

Good Evening, All:

Tonight's post will be relatively short and sweet. I'm posting the basic map I've created as the first draft of the World of Samardan setting. It does not yet have place names, but I figured I should get something up shortly, so that I can start getting feedback and building on it over the course of the A to Z Challenge next month.

Without any further adieu, here's the rough draft:

World of Samardan Regional Map - Rough Draft

Hope You Enjoy,

Friday, March 22, 2013

World of Samardan and the A to Z Challenge...

Good Afternoon, All:

As many of you probably know, I'm a big fan of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Every April, challengers attempt to submit entries on 26 different days, one for each letter of the alphabet. I've successfully participated for the last two years, and so I'm looking forward to another year of successful posting. I always end up with a great amount of material that I then use in my games afterward. Since the World of Samardan campaign setting is under major development, I will have an interesting challenge of blending these two together. I'm just letting you guys know in advance that I'm doing this, so as to explain the unusual post headings and random order of material development that you'll see next month.

Since Steps Two through Five all involve locations (being cities, resources, ruins and lairs), I believe that I will dedicate the month of April to describing some of the wondrous sites and locales of the World of Samardan. Many of these entries will end up in the Gazetteer, if not all of them. Once the month of April is done, I'll identify the remaining features of those steps that have to be completed, and I'll work through the list to finalize them. By the time it is all said and done, I will have described around ten cities, eight resource sites, ten ruins for exploration, and at least ten lairs. So, 26 out of 38 should be complete by the end of April. I trust that dipping into the fluff of the setting will be enjoyable. I think this is where I can really make or break the setting, and so I highly encourage any feedback you might have.

To help inspire my thoughts, and because I like to give my readers things they can use, I've compiled a list of over two hundred possible types of sites and locations that should prove useful in my quest to have an item for every letter of the alphabet. I'm sharing that list below, as a future reference for anyone who might need such. If you have any suggestions for additional items to include, I'm definitely open to them.

List of Site Types

burial chamber
burial mound
charnel house
city of the dead
cross roads
detention camp
estate house
game refuge
holy site
industrial site
salt mines

I'm looking forward to the A to Z Challenge. I hope you guys are, too.

With Regards,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

World of Samardan: Local Geography...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

I'm still working on finalizing the map I want to use for the World of Samardan campaign setting. Making the Granbalem ("Great Valley") region look interesting has been quite a challenge for me. However, I have made a list of geographic locales I wanted to make sure I included on the final map. Here are some basic descriptions of the more prominent geographic regions and elements:

Barbalemdan ("upper+valley+land"): The habitable region known as the Grandbalem is divided into two regions, one being the upper valley known as the Barbalemdan. Much of the mineral-based resources of the region come from this region. Only a few remnants of the Ancient Ones remain behind in the upper valley.

Blendel ("highland+rift"): A deep chasm dividing the Torafeldan, the Blendel has been carved by the Tratagak River over many millennia of erosion. In this region, only the city of the Ancient Ones now called Pulsok ("bridge+height") connects the wastelands of either side for those who would travel by land.

Dulamader ("dark+forest"): This dense jungle, located in the Malbalemdan, is very dangerous, filled with many strange and unusual creatures; survivors insist that even some of the local flora is carnivorous. Yet, rumors persist of great wealth to be found in the holds of many airships that have mysterious crashed while flying over this region.

Malbalemdan ("lower+valley+land"): The Malbalemdan is the lower valley region of the Granbalem, which is covered with lush forests and marshes surrounding a small salt lake. Most of the Granbalem's agricultural resources can be found in this area. No one has discovered any extensive ruins of the Ancient Ones that were left behind in the lower valley. Dinosaurs and other terrible beasts are frequently encountered in the wilderness of this region.

Milapand ("salty+body of water"): This shallow salt lake located at the base of the Malbalemdan is among the last vestiges of standing water on the planet's surface. Only dire beasts of a reptilian nature and very quick fish appear to dwell within the waters of Milapand.

Soradigari ("golden+hills"): So named because of the bright yellowish color of clay in the soil, these hills of the Barbalemdan are said to be the home of unusual abominations and several sites left behind by the Ancient Ones.

Torafeldan, The ("rocky+wastes+land"): The local name for the desolate wastelands that cover most of the surface of Samardan, this is the native home for the Husrani people. Here, tribes of the hyena-men dwell in the remains of various ruined cities of the Ancient Ones, migrating from site to site as the hunting grows lean.

Tratagak River ("ancient+flowing water"): The river that flows through the deep chasm of the Blendel into the Granbalem, through the Barbalemdan and Malbalemdan before emptying into the Milapand.

Like most maps/settings I build for gaming purposes, I look forward to the day when these place names take on personal significance, backed by a number of great playing sessions. I love it when a group has been playing in a region long enough that everyone at the table has a strong familiarity with the locale. When they can speak of it as if they had visited there on vacation last year, then I've done a good job. As a GM creating an immersive world, that's one of the things I live for.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

World of Samardan: Common Races, The Sarrani...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

Today I'm detailing the last of the common races of the World of Samardan campaign setting. As I've mentioned before, these will not be the only humanoids that will dwell in the setting, but these are the only ones that will be allowed as options as characters. Today's post deals with the Sarrani, which I had previously described as the Mystic Race. I also decided to depart from my original thoughts on the subject of appearance, and imply a relationship with the dinosaur-like creatures that inhabit Samardan.

Sarrani ("Dinosaur Men")
The Sarrani are reptilian humanoids typically standing between six and seven feet tall. Their scales are normally dull, earthy colors such as green, brown, or gray. They have a tail for balance, which measures three to four feet long. Typical weight for the Sarrani is between 200 and 300 pounds. Unlike most other humanoids, the Sarrani wear clothing, primarily togas or robes, in addition to the commonplace harness.

A wise and ancient race, the Sarrani have sought to master their psionic potential above all else. Armed with the knowledge that their world is dying, the Sarrani have placed a lot of their racial focus toward moving their minds outside of their bodies, thus shedding their mortal shells without experiencing death or the end of their personal existences. It is their firm believe that this has already been accomplished by the Ancient Ones, and that the Sarrani are their spiritual descendants. Many Sarrani regard those who have not developed their mystical potential as mere children, and dismiss them as irrelevant in the greater pursuit of psionic mastery. Fortunately, they express this belief with a great amount of compassion and charisma.

Basic Abilities: Sarrani have a +2 bonus to both Charisma and Wisdom, but a -2 penalty to both Constitution and Dexterity, reflecting their focus on spirituality over their own mortal shells. Sarrani have a base speed of 6.

Special Abilities: Sarrani possess vicious claws that can be used as natural weapons (1d4 damage each). In addition, Sarrani are able to temporarily leave their body for up to five minutes, projecting their minds at the same speed as their physical form. While outside of their bodies, Sarrani can travel in any direction, even through solid barriers, although energy barriers block their passage. This ability may be used once per rest period.

Saving Throws: Sarrani gain a +2 bonus on all Will saving throws.

Common Languages: Sarrani speak both Trade and their native tongue of Sarranese, in addition to a number of languages equal to their Intelligence bonus, if any.

Suggested Skills: The following skills are suggested for Sarrani characters: Perception, Persuasion.

Now that I've laid out the basics for the three non-human common races, I think we can safely get back to the matter at hand, which is to create a map for the campaign setting.

With Regards,

Friday, March 15, 2013

World of Samardan: Common Races, The Rakrani...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

As you know, I'm currently detailing the common races of the World of Samardan campaign setting. These will not be the only humanoids that will dwell in the setting, but these are the only ones that will be allowed as character options. Today's post deals with the Rakrani, which I had previously described as the Expert Race. Although I was asked to consider the Kaldanes of Barsoom for this role, I have elected to reserve the ecological niche of a parasitic lifeform for the Big Bad Guy race of the setting, and did not want to create a level of sympathy for them by allowing characters with a similar dependency on another species.

Rakrani ("Spider Men")
The Rakrani are small in comparison to the other common races of Samardan, standing around four feet tall and weighing on average around 80 pounds. Rakrani possess many features similar to humans, save for the additional pair of arms they possess, which gives them a vaguely spider-like appearance. Like most other humanoids, the Rakrani go almost completely naked, wearing only a harness with little ornamentation.

The Rakrani focus on matters of the intellect. Driven by curiosity and intellectual pride, the Rakrani's culture is centered around science, philosophy, and the arts. Members of this academic race typically value logic and critical thought over emotion and irrational behavior. This multi-limbed race is widely known for the quality of their healers and sages, as well as their general inability to understand humor. Those Rakrani that spend time among other races often do so as observers, teachers and seekers of lore.

The Rakrani are intelligent enough to recognize that their survival as a species, as well as the survival of the world itself, depends on the maintenance of the poorly understood and almost incomprehensible technology left behind as the legacy of the Ancient Ones. Indeed, a majority of Rakrani venerate the Ancient Ones as near-divine beings. The more isolated of the Rakrani often regard those who do not share their passion for understanding the mysteries of the Ancient Ones as lesser beings, useful tools best suited for labor and experimentation. Fortunately, this view is rarely shared by those who interact regularly with other, less intelligent races.

Basic Abilities: Rakrani have a +2 bonus to both Dexterity and Intelligence, but a -2 penalty to both Constitution and Strength, reflecting their intellectual nature and smaller stature. Rakrani have a base speed of 5. Due to their smaller size, Rakrani gain a +1 bonus to their Defense and a +2 bonus to their Stealth rolls.

Special Abilities: Rakrani have an additional pair of arms, which grant them an additional action each round at a -2 penalty. Alternately, in cases where manual dexterity may have impact, Rakrani may use both pairs of arms (basically using all four hands) to perform such tasks, granting themselves a +1 on any related skill Dexterity-based checks. In addition, Rakrani are naturally mechanically inclined, and gain a +2 bonus on all Craft rolls.

Saving Throws: Rakrani gain a +2 bonus on all Reflex saving throws.

Common Languages: Rakrani speak both Trade and their native tongue of Rakranese, in addition to a number of languages equal to their Intelligence bonus, if any.

Suggested Skills: The following skills are suggested for Rakrani characters: Craft, Lore.

As before, this is the first draft. In my next post, I intend to move forward with the last Common Race, the spiritual Mystic Race.

With Regards,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

World of Samardan: Common Races, The Husrani...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

First, my apologies for missing Monday's post. My birthday was this weekend, and I spent Monday recovering from a very hectic yet fulfilling weekend of celebration. I'm back, though, and ready to get down to the work of creating the World of Samardan campaign setting.

In my most recent departure from the checklist I wrote up, I'm detailing the common races of the setting. These will not be the only humanoids that will dwell in the setting, but these are the only ones that will be allowed for character creation. Aside from Earthlings and Native Humans, I previously discussed the addition of three other races as character options. Today's post deals with the Husrani, which I had previously mentioned as the Warrior Race.

Husrani ("Hyena Men")
The Husrani are the largest of the common races of Samardan, the males standing approximately eight feet in height, and weighing around 300 pounds. In appearance, the Husrani resemble humanoid hyenas, hence their name. Their whole bodies are covered in reddish-brown fur which becomes shorter as it surrounds their faces and clawed hands to reveal grey colored skin. Like most other humanoids, the Husrani go almost completely naked, wearing only a harness and jewelry.

As a people, the Husrani live in large nomadic tribes of families and individuals living together, moving from site to site every season. Born to the saddle, the Husrani are great riders, and display a great amount of affection and attachment to their gorkeshi mounts. They keep herds of domesticated livestock as their primary food source on the desolate upper plains.

The Husrani believe that battle is the greatest source of personal honor and glory, and the most honorable among them will even deliberately disadvantage himself in order to make fights last longer. Those who do not fight are seen as weak and cowardly, and thus are unworthy opponents; such people are better as servants and slaves. In Husrani society, the best death is one spent in battle, making a difference that leads to the greater success of the tribe. Indeed, to the Husrani, living a long, happy, and healthy life to a ripe old age and dying peacefully is seen as undesirable, dishonorable, or a burden. The Husrani are quite skilled with ranged weapons, from the thrown bola and spears to more advanced bows and radium rifles. Given their martial prowess, they are highly prized as mercenaries.

Basic Abilities: Husrani have a +4 bonus to Strength, but a -2 penalty to Dexterity and a -2 penalty to Intelligence, reflecting their large stature and barbarous nature. Husrani have a base speed of 6. Due to their larger size, Husrani suffer a -1 penalty to their Defense and a -2 penalty to their Stealth rolls.

Special Abilities: Skilled with ranged weapons, Husrani gain a +1 bonus on all ranged attack rolls. In addition, Husrani only suffer half the standard penalties on ranged attack rolls while mounted (–2 instead of –4 if their mount is taking a double move, and –4 instead of –8 if their mount is running.)

Saving Throws: Husrani gain a +2 bonus on all Fortitude saving throws.

Common Languages: Husrani speak both Trade and their tribal tongue, in addition to a number of languages equal to their Intelligence bonus, if any.

Suggested Skills: The following skills are suggested for Husrani characters: Riding, Survival.

This is the first draft, of course. However, without additional feedback, I'm likely to let this stand and move forward with the next Common Race, the multi-limbed Expert Race.

With Regards,

Friday, March 08, 2013

World of Samardan: Common Races, Part One...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

Based on comments made earlier this week, I suppose I should take a moment to address the concept of races for the World of Samardan campaign setting. As we are looking at Planetary Romance for our inspiration, I suppose I should take a moment to list some examples of the various races common to a few series in the genre:

  • Barsoom (Edgar Rice Burroughs): Black Martians, Green Martians, Hormad (Synthetic Men), Kaldane, Red Martians, Yellow Martians and White Martians.
  • Gor (John Norman): Humans, Kurii and Swamp Spiders.
  • Green Star (Lin Carter): Humans.
  • Kregen (Kenneth Bulmer under pseudonym Alan Burt Akers): Kregen is home to well over 120 diffs, or distinct races. Among the most common in the stories are Apim (humans), Brokelsh, Chuliks (yellow orcs), Djangs (four-armed humans), Fristles (cat men), Gons, Hobolings (halfling pirates), Kataki (devil men), Mezhtas (gnomes), Ochs, Undurkers (dog men) and Womoxes (minotaurs).
  • Mars (Leigh Brackett): Anthropoids (ape men), Dhuvians (reptilians), Humans, and Sky Folk (winged men).
  • Mars (Michael Moorcock): Humans and Argzoon (blue giants).

The only consistent race are the human variants, so that the Earthling hero has someone to rescue, fall in love with and eventually marry. A multi-limbed race is usually common, as are a race that is larger than normal humans. (In some cases, such as the Green Martians, they are the same race.) My original version of the World of Samardan setting used a somewhat limited selection of Kregen-inspired races, including Humans (umani), Devil Men (kelshani), Four-Armed Men (chardirani), Minotaurs (volkani), Orcs (piljanani) and Tiger Men (nemani). Now I've got a chance to do things differently, and I think I should.

The various races in a Planetary Romance series are typically (but not always) used as the embodiment of a specific personality type or cultural archetype, so that the author can express an opinion about that human trait under the guise of story. In the case of a roleplaying setting, there's still an element of that, as the players choose a character race that reflect a specific mindset, which in turn informs their character portrayal. As I don't have a solid list of story archetypes I want to comment on, as a Referee, I think I'll look at the game system itself. Since I'm creating this for my free Sword and Planet ruleset, I note that there are three primary classes: the Warrior, the Expert and the Mystic. It seems to me that I should be fine creating races that represent each of those as their best-suited archetype, leaving Humans for the more open-ended option.

The Warrior Race

My initial thought is that the Warrior race should probably encompass the larger multi-limbed race concept that is often found in these stories. In the core rules, I've already created the Green Martians to fit this role, but I don't want my work to be wholly derivative of Barsoom. Inspirations from the sources I've listed above include the argzoon (blue giants), djangs (four-armed humans), green martians, kurii and womoxes (minotaurs). Looking also to my larger D&D minis, I have a lot of gnolls and ogres that could be useful in representing a larger race when running a game, so I want to consider that as a factor as well.

Looking at the Warrior professions, I feel comfortable describing the Warrior race as tribal, and are great riders often hired as mercenaries, particularly cavalry. That covers half of the Warrior professions, leaving the other half for exceptional members of the race, as well as the more civilized humans of the setting. Culturally, I'm getting an impression growing in my mind of a cross between native American Indian tribes and Mongol raiders. I can work with that easily enough, and it's a fairly common trope in Planetary Romance settings.

The Expert Race

When I consider the Expert race, I picture something on the smaller side, agile and nimble, with an almost insatiable curiosity. This isn't a common archetype for the Warrior-centric story lines of Planetary Romance, to be certain, but a few examples exist. Inspirations from the sources I've listed above include the dhuvians (reptilians), the swamp spiders (spider men), the mezhtas (gnomes) and ochs. The ochs are multi-limbed, as are the swamp spiders. Hmm.... perhaps I can make the Expert race multi-limbed, and leave the Warrior race as the large race option. This thought intrigues me. Of course, I look over my D&D minis for other options, and come up with halflings, elves and even dwarves as possibilities, in terms of representing this race on the table.

Looking at the Expert professions, I immediately notice that the diplomat, healer and sage professions lend themselves to a strong academic mindset. With that in mind, I'm picturing the Expert race as observers, academics and seekers of lore. Culturally, I'd want to write this race up as having a strong Renaissance flavor, with an emphasis on the Age of Reason. Sadly, on a dying world with civilization in collapse, they will be fighting an uphill battle, trying to recover and preserve knowledge that almost seems destined to vanish. In this way, the Expert race helps draw attention to another fairly common trope in Planetary Romance settings.

The Mystic Race

The Mystic race may be the hardest to contemplate, simply because it isn't as common an option for races in the Planetary Romance genre. This is a very spiritual species, capable of unusual psychic gifts and similar abilities. Inspirations from the sources I've listed above include the yellow martians and white martians. For some reason, I want this race to be blue, maroon or crimson, and I picture them as having oversized craniums, perhaps similar in appearance to classic grey aliens. I don't have many miniatures I can use for such a bold color choice, but that's okay. I'm not going to limit this concept or others by the minis I have available.

Looking at the Mystic professions, I am drawn to the thoughts of a society that supports the Adept, the Doxologist and the Pretender, because of their specifically mental abilities. I immediately picture a culture that focuses on the concept of transcendence, moving the mind out of the body and shedding the mortal shell without experiencing death. While the Warrior race accepts the dying of the world and the Expert race is attempting to forestall the dying of the world through science and knowledge, the Mystic race is attempting to preserve itself beyond the dying of the world. The general focus of the Mystic race on psychic abilities and out-of-body experiences brings attention to these classic elements of Planetary Romance stories.

So far, I know we're going to have four major races in the setting, humans and the three I've started describing above. I'm going to continue to think about what I want out of these races, and post my finalized thoughts in my next entry. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts you'd like to share on the subject, I'm open to your suggestions.

With Regards,

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

World of Samardan: Random "Planetary Romance" Place Name Chart...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

As I start to put together the map, I realize that I will need to name all of these places. As befits locations set on a far off world, I don't want to use fantasy classics like "Oxbridge" or "Oakdale", that kind of thing. Instead, I really feel like I should aim for names that sound more like those from Planetary Romance source material. Here are some examples:

  • Barsoom (Edgar Rice Burroughs): Aaanothor, Amhor, Bantoom, Duhor, Gathol, Hastor, Helium, Jahar, Kadabra, Kamtol, Kaol, Kobol, Korvas, Lothar, Manator, Marentina, Morbus, Okar, Ombra, Panar, Pankor, Phundahl, Ptarth, Raxar, Thark, Thurd, Tjanath, Toonol, Torquas, U-Gor, Xanator, Zodonga, Zor.
  • Gor (John Norman): Anango, Ar, Cardonicus, Kassau, Ko-ro-ba, Laurius, Port Kar, Sardar, Schendi, Turmus, Tabor, Teletus, Thassa.
  • Green Star (Lin Carter): Ardha, Calidar, Kamadhong, Komar, Phaolon.
  • Kregen (Kenneth Bulmer under pseudonym Alan Burt Akers): Aduimbrev, Arkasson, Askinard, Benga Deste, Bormark, Can-thirda, Chem, Chersonang, Cherwangtung, Cyphren Sea, Delka Dwa, Delphond, Donengil, Erthyrdrin, Evir, Falinur, Felteraz, Flahi, Gansk, Havilfar, Hiclantung, Isteria, Jholaix, Klackadrin, Loh, Lome, Magdag, Mehzta, Memis, Menaham, Ng'groga, Pandahem, Panderk, Pattelonia, Pa Weinob, Perithia, Plicla, Pomdermam, Proconia, Rahartdrin, Sanurkazz, Segesthes, Thadelm, Therminsax, Tomboram, Turismond, Ullardrin, Undurkor, Valka, Valkanium, Vallia, Vandayha, Vindelka, Vulheim, Walfarg, Wyndhai, Xuntal, Yumapan, Zenicce, Zond, Zulfiria, Zullia, Zy.

These are not the only cities or countries mentioned in these series, nor are these the only series in the genre. These are simply the first ones I could grab from a quick online search. Looking them over, I can see a few trends that will impact the creation of place names.

Suffixes: You can see that some of the authors trended toward certain suffixes in the names of places in their settings. On Barsoom, the following appear common: -ar, -ator, -bra, -ol, -or, -thor and -tor. Gor only supports a trend for -us, while the few options from the Green Star series supports an -ar suffix. Kregen, the largest series with the largest selection of place names, shows a great range of diversity, and in terms of trends only offers us: -ahem, -an(g)tung, -drin, -lka, -ia and -ond. Reaching across authors, the following seems universally reinforced: -ahem, -an(g)tung, -ar, -ator, -bra, -dar, -drin, -ia, -ium, -kor, -lka, -ol, -ond, -or, -thor , -tor and -us.

Prefixes: Common prefixes are a little rarer. Barsoom offer Ka-, Pan- and maybe Th- and Z-. Neither Gor nor the Green Star series offers me any suggestions, while Kregen suggests the following common prefixes: Cher-, Pand-, Val- and maybe Zul-. Again, reaching across authors creates a slightly more comprehensive list: Ar-, Cher-, Del-, Kam-, Ka-, Ko-, Lo-, Pan-, Pand-, Tha-, Tur-, Valk-, Val-, Zo- and Zul-.

I imagine that I could easily mix and match common prefixes and suffixes, along with some random syllable in the middle, to come up with some appropriate place names that have a strong Planetary Romance feel to them. However, one of the goals here is to use a naming language to create a greater sense of consistency throughout the campaign setting. Toward that end, I've looked at articles on creating naming languages, particularly rassaku's series that starts with the observation "Why names in fantasy often suck", and continues through two more posts. These are a very good read, and I highly recommend them. My favorite article on the subject, though, is the one that started me on the concept of using naming languages. The original site to host it is temporarily unavailable, but the article itself is reproduced here in PDF: A Naming Language.

So, from the analysis I did before, I can create a table of root words that can be useful in creating Place Names. So long as the roots I choose have a feel that seems to fit the pattern, I should have a relatively easy go of creating appropriate Place Names. Toward that end, I've created the following table of place name roots and their meanings. These can be combined in sets of two or three, and then perhaps modified as needed, to create place names for the World of Samardan setting:

Table: Random Planetary Romance Place Names
d66Place Name Root
11balem ("valley")
12bar ("upper, greater")
13blen ("highland")
14del ("chasm, rift")
15digar ("hill")
16din ("mineral, stone")
21dren ("lumber, wood")
22dros ("estate, manor")
23gar ("mountain")
24grat ("township (walled)")
25ham ("homestead, residence")
26kam ("grasslands, meadow")
31kol ("mine, quarry")
32lium ("spire, tower")
33mader ("forest, woods")
34mak ("place, site")
35mal ("lower, lesser")
36mer ("moor, swamp")
41nat ("farm, plantation")
42nob ("new")
43pand ("water")
44par ("chokepoint, pass")
45pol ("field")
46por ("aerie, port")
51pul ("bridge")
52ram ("temple")
53rek ("rich, wealthy")
54sag ("dungeon, jail, prison")
55san ("defend, protect")
56sok ("height")
61sol ("citadel, fort (civilized)")
62thor ("hamlet, shire")
63tor ("rock")
64tur ("castle, palace")
65val ("village")
66valk ("fort (frontier/border), watch tower")

To use the table, I simply roll d66 twice, once for a prefix and once for a suffix, or three times (prefix-middle-suffix), if I feel like a longer name. If they don't sound good together, then I can always throw a random vowel or syllable between them, until it sounds right to me. Remember, this is intended to spark my imagination, not replace it.

So, here are some examples of place names I've created using this table:

  • Deval: Rolling a 14, followed by 65, I get Del + val ("chasm/rift" + "village"). Delval doesn't roll off the tongue when I repeat it to myself five times quickly, so I shorten it to Deval, which works better for me. Deval was once a small village overlooking a chasm, but has grown as its role and importance has increased over the years.
  • Nobium: Rolling d66 twice, I came up with 42, followed by a second roll of 32. This leads to Nob + liyum ("new" + "spire/tower"). Noblium is a little clunky on the tongue, so after saying it to myself five times fast, I decide to drop the "l" to get a more pronounceable result of Nobium. Lying on the outskirts of ancient ruins, Nobium ("new tower") is the settlement of the only major structure to have survived from days long ago, that of a tall arcology.
  • Pordel: I rolled 46, followed by 14, to come up with Por + del ("aerie/port" + "chasm/rift"). Pordel is a city known for the quality of its flying mounts, many of which roost along the chasm walls against which the city was built.
  • Thornat: I first generated a 62, followed by 41, to come up with Thor + nat ("hamlet/shire" + "farm/plantation"). Thornat was originally a small township that sprang up around a heavy agrarian locale, but has since grown into a large market city.
  • Torkobalem: This city derives from a roll of 63, followed by 11, to come up with Tor + balem ("rock" + "valley"). On a whim, I roll a third d66, and come up with kol ("mine/quarry). Putting it together in an what I think is an interesting way, I get Torkolbalem. Using the "repeat this to myself five times quickly" test, I find that the first "l" tends to drop out, so I rewrite it as Torkobalem. (Linguistic Note: I'm beginning to notice that phonemes that end in an "l" tend to lose the trailing "l" if they are not the last syllable of a word. That might need to become a rule somewhere.) Torkobalem is a city located in a region rich with valuable minerals. This sounds like a good candidate for the city that controls, or seeks to control, power crystals. (Power crystals provide the pseudo-scientific technology that explains the ray guns, flying machines and other elements we'll be adding to the setting as we go along.)

I think I lucked out this time around with the random chart creation. Out of five tries, I got five decent results. For me, that makes this table a success in terms of naming places. That will help out a lot as we choose names for various locations on the map. What do you think?

With Regards,

Monday, March 04, 2013

World of Samardan: Map Considerations...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

Before we can actually begin building a map for the World of Samardan setting, there are a few considerations that I'd prefer to address first. The two biggest concerns I have are the size/scale of the map and the terrain it should include.

Map Scale
In terms of campaigning within a sandbox setting, most of my players rarely leave an area more than seven days across. Even starting a campaign off in the middle of the map, I'm looking at a map that is probably fifteen to twenty days travel time, at the most. Unless I've got a good reason to do so, though, I'm inclined to put the starting city of the campaign down near one corner, maybe three days from the edge, and then expand out from there, so a map of ten to twelve days travel should be sufficient.

Here's where things get a little wonky. What are the means by which player-characters can travel across the landscape? On foot, I assume a walking rate of about three miles (~4.8 or basically five kilometers) per hour. Using the gaming standard of eight hours of walking per day of travel, I find that a day's travel covers a distance of about 24 miles (~38.6 kilometers). That would give us a map of approximately 240-288 miles (386-463 kilometers) along each side.

But what if I allow flying mounts, like the "flutrells" of Kregen or the "tarns" of Gor? If I based their stats on the game mechanics for a giant eagle, for example, then I'm looking at a movement rate that is double to triple that of a walking human (depending on the system you use.) For the sake of discussion, let's assume ten days of travel time at this point, and a flying rate that is 2.5 times that of a walking human. That's an region measuring about 600 miles (965 kilometers) along each side. And if you have to hoof it on foot, then the entire region requires 25 days to cross, assuming even terrain.

But wait, that's not all. I could assume that there will be airships. If I do, and I probably would, then I then have to consider how far they can travel in a day. If they move like sailing vessels on the open seas, then airships cover about 80 to 100 miles a day. That's a region measuring about 800 to 1000 miles (1287 to 1609 kilometers) across.

But what if airships traveled faster than that? I'm going to put a maximum speed consideration on airships to about the general speed of a single propeller aircraft, because once we hit jet speeds, we're mapping a whole world, and that's obviously way too much. A Cessna 152 maxes out at 126mph, and while there are plenty of aircraft that are faster, this should work for our purpose. Assuming one tank of gas, it can travel 477 miles (768 km), or 795 miles (1280 km) with long-range tanks. If we assume that whatever powers an airship has a similar range on a daily basis, then we're looking at a region that runs 4800 to 8000 miles across.

Obviously, we can't use the ten day range for airships, unless everyone has airships. The world just gets too big to effectively sandbox. If we look at human walking speed, we get a map that is 240 miles across, for example. Flying mounts can cover the same territory in four days. An airship that travels at the speed of ancient sailing vessels, then they could cover the region in two days. I can live with those figures. (And if someone really wanted to use aircraft speeds, then that's two hours to cover the region, but that takes all the fun out of it.) This makes flying mounts very desirable, and airships are reserved for the wealthy and powerful, for obvious reasons.

So that I've got a little more room to play with, in terms of flying mounts, I think I'll go with fifteen days walking distance, or 360 miles across. Assuming 12-mile hexes (which are my personal preference for regional hex maps), that means approximately 30 hexes to the side. Hmmm... seeing that number makes me think of Traveller sector maps, which are 32 hexes wide by 40 hexes tall. Given my love for those, I'll just up the map size slightly to fit that model, and I'll move forward with that.

Final Resolution: The map for the World of Samardan campaign setting shall be 32 hexes wide by 40 hexes tall!

Terrain Types There are two rather common descriptions for worlds in the Planetary Romance genre:
  1. Desolate World: Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars serialized novel in 1914 was set on the desolate world of Barsoom, described pretty much as badlands covered in a crimson moss, with limited water and only an occasional forest. This fit the limited knowledge of scientists of the era, as filtered through the imagination of a pencil sharpener wholesaler-turned-author. The popularity of his stories spun off a series of imitators, and many early tales of this genre depicted worlds of a similar nature.
  2. Lush Tropical Wilderness: The nature of the heroes and tales told in Planetary Romance derive from the Jungle Adventure sub-genre, and it is no small wonder that the other common terrain selected for these stories is that of jungles and rain forests, regions teaming with dangerous wildlife ready to devour a hero or a princess at any moment. Lin Carter took this to an extreme in the Green Star series, and placed the entire series on a cloud-covered world largely covered by a tropical forest of multi-mile-high trees in whose tops are the main cities of the human inhabitants of the world.

On the one hand, I think the setting would be more identifiable to those who came into the genre via the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I can create a dying world, with water as a limited resource, thin canals cutting through miles of desert and mountain ranges, and ruins of ancient cities and atmosphere production plants (terraforming stations) dotting the wilderness. I think it's true to the genre, but it sounds a little boring as a gaming environment, in and of itself, because there's so little diversity in terms of experiences.

On the other hand, I can get a lot more diversity out of the lush tropical jungle approach. The diversity of wildlife will make the game interesting and be identifiable to many readers of the genre, but there's little to make it stand out from a fantasy campaign setting, at first blush. I definitely want something with flavor, and while this gives me variety, I feel that with this option, I'm lacking a sense of distinctive flavor that would separate this setting from a fantasy setting.

Honestly, I'd like to honor both terrain styles, rather than choose between the two. That way, I can liberally "borrow" ideas from multiple authors for a Planetary Romance campaign and still have places where they would fit in the setting. With that in mind, I think I'm going to go with a variant on the dying world trope. The surface of the planet is primarily desolate wastelands. However, in vast open valleys, once the beds of great lakes, the last vestiges of a lush tropical existence clings to life. If you climb out of the great valley area, however, all you find are the wastelands. This could also give me a reason why most of the adventures will take place in this area, with only a few adventures likely to push forth into the deadly wastelands of the upper reaches in search of ancient ruins. It localizes resources of interest to the populations as a whole, and gives cities a reason to squabble over these rare sites in relative proximity to one another. Hmmm, I'm liking this thought more and more as I ruminate on it.

Final Resolution: The World of Samardan campaign setting shall be set within a large valley where enough water remains to allow jungles and life to persist, but beyond the valley lies only wastelands (and presumably other valleys).

Both of the thought processes above dramatically change the world's "Big Picture" view from my original World of Samardan campaign. Honestly, though, I ran that game during my Gamemastering phase of "story arcs over player arcs." Since then, I've swung very happily into the player-generated adventure zone, and I feel that this sandbox version of Samardan is going to be even better than what I ran the first time through.

Looking Forward To It,

Friday, March 01, 2013

World of Samardan: Developing A Planetary Romance Setting...

Good Afternoon, Everyone:

Today, I'm going to outline the basic flow of development events for the World of Samardan campaign setting. If it looks rather similar to the Traveller Sandbox Experiment development process, that's okay. This method has proven to work for me in a wide variety of sandbox settings. Of course, I will likely leave the course occasionally if something in the process sparks a side note of some sort that I want to capture, such as notes on the cultures of Samardan, that kind of thing. However, I promise I'll quickly come back to these steps if I happen to stray from time to time.

Generate A Map: In this step, I will generate a basic map that I will use as the foundation for the campaign setting.

Establish Cities: Here is where I will place the various cities and townships that will serve as the major population centers for Samardan. I'll likely scatter ten or so cities across the map, to encourage travel and exploration.

Resource Sites: These are sites that hold the potential for great wealth and economic success, if they can be properly processed. I'll choose eight to ten different sites, and use the descriptions to help establish what is considered valuable in the setting.

Ruins: The meat and potatoes of any campaign setting, ruins here represent the structures left behind by the ancient civilization that once existed on this world, before they vanished long ago. Of course, these sites are vast, holding much wealth in terms of lost technology and valuable goods. Unfortunately, they are also protected by their inhabitants. I'll place about ten or so of these on the map, and create some notes on their nature, for reference during actual play.

Lairs: Every hero needs something or someone to fight, especially in a Planetary Romance setting. Lairs represent opportunities for our adventurers to shine. I'll have anywhere from 10 to 15 of those scattered around the map, many threatening cities or resource sites.

Hall of Infamy: By now, you guys probably know that this is one of my favorite parts of any setting. At this point, I'll want to create the major villains that will be causing plot-arc level problems in the region. I love challenges that last more than a single adventure, and these will be the stockpile from which I will draw my inspiration.

Bestiary: Here's where I'll provide the details for the creatures I'll introduce in passing in previous steps. I like monsters, and in this section, I'll want to generate around fifty of them, so I have a lot of variety in my arsenal as a Referee.

Glossary: Along the way, I'm bound to create quite a few words as part of the naming language I'll use in setting design. Here's the step where I gather all of that together and make it presentable, so I can use it in the future.

Gazetteer: Finally, I'll want to pull together all the cultural notes that I create along the way, and organize the information in a short gazetteer. That way, both the players and myself have a reference for when we need it. I'll likely introduce the material piecemeal to my players over the course of our adventures, but they'll also have access from the beginning, in case they want to learn it on their own.

The last two steps are pretty new to this process, but really, it's because I want to make it usable. There's little actual creative work in the final two steps, aside from gathering and collating data, and perhaps filling in a few blanks if they become obvious as I put these two documents together. At any rate, if you feel that I'm leaving something undone, please feel free to let me know.

Next time, we'll move on to the first step, and begin work on our campaign setting map.