Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: New Year's Resolutions In Review...

GOod Morning, All:

Today, I reviewed my 2010 Gaming Resolutions, figuring that doing so helps me to evaluate what I have accomplished in the past year. Besides, tomorrow I need to post my 2011 Gaming Resolutions.

I failed to accomplish my first resolution for this year, publish four products. I did publish three books/supplements: MyD20 Lite Player's Guide, Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, and Book of Races. I still feel good about what I got done, as I grossly underestimated the impact that a new baby would have on my available time. That I got three things completed in 2010 is pretty good, comparatively.

I succeeded in my second resolution, blog thrice weekly. I covered a wide range of topics in the 250 posts I've made this year, and actually posted an average of 4.8 posts a week. That's another feel-good moment from reviewing this year's resolutions.

In regards to my third resolution, publish four fanzines, I did not succeed in the slightest. However, I did transfer my editorship (and essentially the ownership of the Stellar Reaches fanzine) to Alvin Plummer mid-way through the year. He managed to publish four issues in the remainder of this year, accomplishing my resolution, but not through any effort on my part. I cannot claim it as a victory for me, but I do think making that decision was the best thing for the fans.

So, roughly, I feel like I hit it 50/50 this year, in terms of meeting my resolutions. Next year, I hope to do better. How did you do with yours?

With Regards,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

PSA: Another Lulu.Com Coupon Code...

Good Afternoon, All:

Here's a quick note to let you all know about another Lulu.Com coupon code. This one is WINTER305, and grants you 25% off of your book order. This coupon code is good until January, 5 2011 at 11:59 PM.

Hope This Helps,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Good Morning, All:

To all my friends who celebrate today, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace, the gladness of Christmas give you hope, and the warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Season's Greetings,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Solstice!

Good Evening, All:

To all my friends who celebrate today, I wish you all a very Merry Solstice and a Happy Yule! May you be blessed by the light of the returning Sun, that the coming year shall be one of good tidings and great joy.

Bright Blessings,

Samardan Press: Looking At What Sells...

Good Morning, All:

This morning I looked through the sales numbers for various products I have sold under the Samardan Press label. Here's a rough breakdown of total PDF sales to date, by product:

TitleTotal Sold
Book of Races18
Fantasy Concepts Campaign Resource125
Flynn's Guide to Alien Creation149
Flynn's Guide to Magic in Traveller71
Hammersong's Legacy7
Modern Options: The Tome of Talents18
MyD20 Lite Player's Guide42
OGL Alternatives: Alternate Advancement System55
One-Act Adventure: Vengeance By Proxy12

From the numbers above, it really looks like my best sellers are my Traveller products (except adventures), followed closely behind by Fantasy Concepts. Obviously, campaign settings such as Hammersong's Legacy are not good sellers at all, followed closely behind by adventures. I'm not really looking at the singletons that I started off with. System-wise, my best avenue would be to pursue Traveller, followed by Fantasy Concepts. Swords & Wizardry does not appear to be my thing, product-wise.

With that in mind, I'm inclined to put my efforts toward the following directions with future products:

  • I should focus on Traveller above other systems, because the rate of return is higher.
  • Despite the fact that MyD20 Lite isn't doing well, I will continue to develop it, simply to make sure I have the version of D&D I want to use for future fantasy games.
  • System books and supplements do better than adventures and settings, so I should focus on those.
  • I should also try a few experiments into products of other types beyond just the basics I've tackled here.
  • Stellar Quest will also make it out, just because it was fun to research and develop, and I know that there are a few fans of the project here among the readers.

I'm sure that this blog will continue to talk about Old School gaming, as that's the campaign style I prefer to run. I may also make a few more Traveller posts, if there's interest. While I'm not publishing with the goal of making a profit, but rather for the fun of creating works that others can enjoy, I have found that with today's economy, my Convention trips are easier if I have extra spending money earned from my product sales. So I suspect that I'll need to focus if I'm going to have a better Gen Con this year.

With Regards,

Friday, December 17, 2010

GM Mentoring: Adventure Creation Through Myth And Television...

Good Evening:

I often find inspiration for adventures in the television series I watch or the stories of mythology. Often the best ideas come from a blending of the core concepts from two unrelated sources, and then running with the resulting Frankenstein creation, smoothed out to fit the events of the campaign itself. Let's work through an example, by way of illustration.

Let's start with a story chosen from mythology. It often helps if we look at a religion that is not common to the usual experience of the gaming group. As mine is primarily made up of Christians, choosing a non-European mythos is highly recommended. While I started thinking initially in terms of oriental myths, I eventually decided to try something a bit closer to home. With that in mind, I searched Google for Polynesian myths and found an interesting site that mentioned a number of legends we can pull from. I liked the following for an adventure idea:

In Tahitian mythology, the supreme creator deity was Ta'aroa, also called Rua-i-tupra (source of growth). Ta'aroa emerged from a cosmic egg and started the process of creation. To fill the emptiness around him, he used part of the egg to make the sky and the other part to create the earth. Satisfied with his accomplishment, he filled the world with all the creatures and things that are now found in it. The Tahitians believed that Ta'aroa sent both blessings and curses, and they tried to appease him with human sacrifices.

This evening, I also watched a show on the Smithsonian Channel entitled "The Mystery of the Hope Diamond." One of the stories of the origin of the Hope Diamond curse can be found on Wikipedia:

According to these stories, Tavernier stole the diamond from a Hindu temple where it had been set as one of two matching eyes of an idol, and the temple priests then laid a curse on whoever might possess the missing stone. Largely because the other blue diamond "eye" never surfaced, historians dismissed the fantastical story. Furthermore, the legend claimed that Tavernier died of fever soon after and that his body was torn apart by wolves, but the historical record shows that he actually lived to the age of 84.

We start the process by breaking each down into their component pieces, or at least the pieces we want to use for our adventure idea. From the myth snippet above, we can grab the following tidbits:

  • A creator deity emerges from a cosmis egg, and uses part of it to create the sky and the rest to create the heavens.
  • Then he filled the world with all the different forms that occupy it now.
  • Human followers tried to appease him with human sacrifices.

From the Hope Diamond legend, I found the following pieces that might prove interesting in an adventure:

  • An adventurer steals a gem from an eye of an idol in an ancient temple.
  • A curse laid upon the stone afflicts any who possess it.
  • The original adventurer died of a fever and his body was then ripped apart by wolves.

Putting those ideas together, I came up with the following adventure concept:

The temple of an ancient cult devoted to a Creator God was once robbed by a band of adventurers. The biggest score of the heist was a gem stolen from the main statue of a wolf-headed Creator God; however, the theft came with a price, for the cult had lain a curse upon the stolen gem. One by one, the adventuring band has succumbed to a deadly disease. Now, the last surviving member, in the hopes of removing this disease, is seeking adventurers that are willing to escort him back to the temple, to return the stolen gem to the eye of the statue. The biggest challenge isn't the wilderness through which the survivor and his crew will travel, but the human-sacrificing cultists and sacred dire wolves that demand blood to atone for the theft of their God statue's eye.

This adventure could pack in a lot of cultural flavor, and creates a fairly unique motivation for the adventure that is different from most that I've run. Most of the adventures I run tend to be going to a location in order to steal/acquire the contents of that destination. Here's a scenario that features taking an object to a destination, despite danger to life and limb. I'd be interested in seeing what my players would do with the scenario. What are your thoughts on it?

With Regards,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Designing a Trap...

Good Evening, All:

In working on the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide today, I developed a quick section on designing traps that is similar to the section I have for creating new monsters. I’m providing a sneak peek at that section below. In addition, I’m providing some basic traps for simply plug-and-play use, and a few other tidbits as well.

Designing A Trap
When building a trap from scratch, the following table offers some suggested values for use in the trap's stat block, based on the desired Challenge Rating (CR) of the trap.

CRXPAttack BonusAttack DmgOngoing DmgDifficultyMax Spell Lvl

CR: The CR of a trap is equivalent to a monster of the same Challenge Rating.
XP: The XP value of a trap is equivalent to that of a monster of the same Challenge Rating.
Attack Bonus: For traps that utilize an attack roll, such as those involving weapons, this is the suggested attack bonus for such attacks.
Attack Dmg: For traps that utilize attack rolls or that inflict damage once after being activated, this is the suggested damage that could be inflicted by the trap.
Ongoing Dmg: For traps that inflict ongoing damage, such as poison traps, this is the suggested ongoing damage value.
Difficulty: For traps that require a saving throw instead of an attack roll, this is the suggested Difficulty of that save.
Max Spell Lvl: For traps that emulate a spell effect, this is the maximum level of spell suggested for a trap of this Challenge Rating.

The Attack Damage values are based on the Moderate Damage column I provided in a previous post when crunching the numbers on monsters, while the Ongoing Damage values come from the Least Damage column of that same post. These are, of course, based on CR, not Hit Dice. So, what do you think? Any suggestions, comments or other thoughts?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Missing Topics in the Referee's Guide...

Good Evening, All:

As I work through the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide, I'm finding a few topics that are not covered, but perhaps should be, if I want a more complete guide for the gamemaster. Here are the topics I am considering for addition to the guide:

  • Traps
  • Conditions
  • Environment & Wilderness Exploration

There are almost certainly more topics that could be added, to provide a more well-rounded gaming experience, but I think these are likely to be the minimum needed for a good game. While Fantasy Concepts was a campaign resource designed to be used with existing 3E materials, MyD20 Lite is intended to be a complete stand-alone game in its own right. When all is said and done, I am hoping that I do not need to reference any other gaming material except when searching for ideas and inspirations. At least, that's my goal in terms of developing the core of this system.

The Inner Earth adventures of the World Within will use the core MyD20 Lite system, with an alternate spellcaster to replace the Mage and Priest classes. So, whether my next fantasy campaign is vanilla fantasy or the World Within, I'm looking to use this system for my next campaign. I am definitely looking forward to it.

With Regards,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Stock NPCs Revisited...

Good Afternoon, All:

I'm torn on the concept of stock NPCs. As I've done more reading into 4E, I've found that there's a different way that NPCs can be created instead of building PCs using the character classes. What 4E does is fairly simple, and easy to implement. In essence, 4E adds a small subset of a class's features to a monster through the use of a "class template". From the perspective of MyD20 Lite, that would be something as simple as:

Warrior, Experienced (approximately 4th level)
Hit Dice: +4 Hit Dice. (Be sure to modify BAB, Saves, Bonus Damage, Difficulties and other elements as necessary.)
Saving Throw Bonuses: +2 Fortitude, +1 Reflex.
Weapon Mastery: This creature has a +1 bonus on attacks and a +2 bonus on damage when using weapons from a single weapon group.
Warrior Talents: Choose two talents from the Warrior class.
Challenge Rating Adjustment: +4.

Or, for a spellcaster such as a Mage, something like:

Mage, Experienced (approximately 4th level)
Hit Dice: +2 Hit Dice. (Be sure to modify BAB, Saves, Bonus Damage, Difficulties and other elements as necessary.)
Saving Throw Bonuses: +1 Reflex, +2 Will.
Arcane Spells: This creature has 10 spellpoints, and carries a spellbook with up to five 1st level and five 2nd level spells.
Mage Talents: Choose two talents from the Mage class.
Challenge Rating Adjustment: +4.

I'm sure this same concept can be used in other retro-clones. To determine the number of bonus hit dice to add, I would find the number that is closest to the attack bonus and base hitpoints for the class at that level. If those differ, I'd lean more towards hitpoints, I think, than attack bonus. After that, the rest is pretty easy.

But I'm still trying to decide exactly how I want to do it. I just had this thought and decided to share it, in case anyone had a comment on it, either positive or negative. So, what do you think?

With Regards,

Friday, December 10, 2010

PSA: Lulu.Com Coupon Codes...

Good Morning, All:

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When considering the use of these coupons, please take a moment to review the products I've got up for sale at Samardan Press. I've created a wide range of products in support of Traveller and retro-clone fantasy gaming. I would really appreciate your patronage and your consideration.

With Regards,

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A General Update: Thoughts of Future Posts...

Good Morning, All:

My apologies for the recent slowing of blog posts, but the web application we have been developing at work has a Go Live date of today, so we've been hard at work. I'm now in overtime, and when I'm not working, I'm trying to have some family time and get a little sleep. In this case, little is the operative word.

However, when things let up, which I hope is after today, I would like to get a few posts out there. Here are a list of topics I'd like to pursue:

  • Fellgorge: I'd like to develop a city map and some details for the city of Fellgorge, since it has become the de facto hub of the current Madlands campaign.
  • MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide: I'd like to work on finishing that up and getting it out there so that gamers can actually play MyD20 Lite the way it was intended, as a complete system of its own.
  • The World Within: I'd love to continue making posts on the details of the World Within as I find inspiration to do so.
  • Of Campaigns Past: I'd like to continue detailing my past campaigns, and see what I can come up with as an amalgamation of all of that work.
  • Stellar Quest: Since I'm running games at Owl Con using this system, I'd like to wrap it up and get it out the door.
  • Reviews: I'd like to try to do a few reviews again, at least one a month. It would be good to do one this month to start the ball rolling.

I have other ideas, of course, but I'm curious. What would you, the reader, want to see discussed in the coming weeks?

With Regards,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: A Multitude of Races...

Good Evening, All:

Work has been quite hectic of late, and I haven't had much of an opportunity to focus on gaming as I would have liked. However, I know that I need to make at least one more post this week, so I'm taking a few minutes to discuss the races of my previous campaign settings, as part of exploring my past games for items to mine for my own elusive "perfect milieu". In this post, I figure I'd list some of the many races I've used frequently in games past.

First, though, I think I'll briefly mention my use of races. In most of my campaigns, I tend to offer a lot of races, particularly in the beginning of my GMing career. I believe I was influenced by a wide variety of sources. Star Wars, in particular, was one great influence. At a young and impressionable age, I enjoyed the cosmopolitan nature of the many species of the cantina scene, among others. My favorite novels growing up were Planetary Romances, often populated by a wild and diverse range of races.

Common Fantasy Races: A majority of my worlds have had a number of common fantasy races. I always have humans as an available character option. In addition, I often include elves (often with an asian flavor), dwarves, halflings and orcs. I truly dislike gnomes, because I've never seen them played well, so I don't include them as options.

Common Planetary Romance Races: I often have one or more races that are inspired by the Sword & Planet novels I enjoy so much. For example, exotic humans with skin tones of strange hues, such as cerulean or crimson, are common in many Planetary Romance adventures. In my case, I've frequently used a blue-skinned human race I call the Merimen, who are exceptional merchants, as well as a crimson-skinned human race known as the Merokee, who live in a tribal society similar to that of the Native Americans of the Great Plains. Inspired by the green men of Barsoom, I commonly use a four-armed giant humanoid race I often describe as having ogre-like features, save for the four arms and a much fairer complexion. These four-armed giants are known as the Tarthani, and are perhaps the most frequently encountered non-standard race of all of my campaigns.

Uncommon Races: There are other fantasy races I've allowed as character races in previous campaigns, including minotaurs, goblins, kobolds, hawkfolk, serpentfolk, mantisfolk, lizardfolk, catfolk, dogfolk and even ratfolk. In particular, I found a good number of the races from Fantasy Flight Games' Mythic Races to be wonderful additions to my campaign worlds. In particular, I enjoyed using the Coivald, Rezorbek, Artathi, Ooloi and Siarrans (like medium-sized Tarthani).

While I've tried worlds with fewer races, I always seem to come back to a more cosmopolitan world. I suppose that means the ultimate "perfect milieu" for me would have to include a wide variety of racial options, beyond the standard handful that often are the only races described in a Player's Handbook. The hard part about it, I guess, would be to create a cohesive whole for all of them in a world where each have their place. That reminds me of the setup behind the Nine Kingdoms of Arn campaign, which I will dive into sometime next week.

So, what kind of races do you like in your campaign worlds? Do you play with unusual races, and if so, would you mind sharing some thoughts on them? What races have given you the greatest sense of enjoyment as a player? As a Referee?

With Regards,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Online Gaming: Considering a MyD20 Lite Mini-Series...

Good Evening, All:

I am considering the possibility of running an online mini-series of 4-10 sessions in length, hopefully using my own MyD20 Lite rules as the foundation. It's my hope that I can break in the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide with some actual in-game use, and I'm just wanting to try the system out in something longer than a single-session One Shot. Before I begin, however, I need to gather the basic elements needed to run a game online. I already have a great collection of token images for use as characters and monsters, so that's not an issue. However, I'm not sure what else I'll need.

I imagine that it would help to have maps of some basic encounter locations ready, such as a forested path, an inn or tavern, a small hovel, some ruins, two or three simple dungeons, and a campsite or two. Does anyone have any suggestions of where I could pick some of these up? Are there other maps you would suggest that I add to this basic list?

Also, what virtual tabletop would you suggest I use? I'm currently considering Fantasy Grounds, Screen Monkey and RPTools/MapTool (if I can find a proper Campaign Framework or create one quickly). I figure that the most likely source of volunteer gamers will come from the readers of this blog, so I thought I'd conduct an informal poll to see what you guys prefer to use when gaming online. If you have any thoughts on the matter, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

With Regards,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: Another World Map of Nova-Kintar...

Good Morning, All:

With some free time over the holidays here in the States, I finally gave in to the urge to pull up Hexographer and whip up a replacement map for my old world of Nova-Kintar. This map measures much the same as the original map did. Each hex approximates 250 miles across. I also shifted the map so that its edges fall along what would be the Atlantic Ocean. (My original map looked much like the simple world map I'd posted previously, at least in terms of continental position.)

And now, without any further adieu, here's an updated map of Nova-Kintar:

Updated Map of Nova-Kintar

Please feel free to post any questions or thoughts as a comment here.

With Regards,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Evening, All:

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and to let you know that I am thankful for your readership and your friendship. I hope you all have enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday, if you celebrate such, and if not, I still want you guys to know that I appreciate everyone who visits this blog and has enjoyed any of the Samardan Press products I've released.

With Warm Regards,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GM Mentoring: Dungeons As Campaign Maps...

Good Afternoon, All:

It's been a long couple of weeks, and I haven't been able to read the blogs as much as I normally like to. Since I have today off (working for the State may not pay as well as the private sector, but its other benefits are nice, including the number of days off for State and Federal holidays.) One of the posts over on the Omnipotent Eye about dungeons in newer game systems these days really caught my eye. In essence, he was asking what could be done to help gamers with a preference for cinematic adventuring common to modern gaming systems become fully engaged in a dungeon experience. I posted a response to the original entry, but it sparked my imagination enough that I thought I'd make a quick blog entry of my own here.

Megadungeons are pretty fascinating environments, as you can tell by their prominence in discussions on the internet over the last few years. However, many gamers don't like the changes that overcome a party of adventurers the moment they step into a dungeon. Suddenly, everyone is busy checking for traps, looking for secret doors and systematically mapping a seemingly endless series of chambers looking for monsters to kill and loot to steal. In many cases, the party experiences a change of focus, because they have no end-goal or destination in mind. Instead, it's all about getting in, getting gold and getting out alive. For people interested in a story-based adventure, let's face it: that's boring as hell.

So, how do we fix this issue? My personal recommendation is to think of these large megadungeons as campaign maps. Every "sandbox" GM has read about taking a modular design approach to their campaign maps, and has probably even designed a setting or two that presents the special locations in the wilderness beyond civilization as rumors and the goals of quests. If your entire campaign is going to be based around the concept of a megadungeon, there's no reason you can't do the same exact thing here.

Choose six to twelve locations on your overall map to serve as destinations or goals. These sites become the focus of your rumor charts, and are fairly well known (even if only by rumor) among the populations that inhabit your dungeon. Each site has its own flavor that makes it stand out, and presumably its own secrets as well. Like a wilderness-based sandbox campaign, the rest of the dungeon represents the wilderness between these exotic locations that the party must traverse. Certainly, it does not appear as open as the wilderness of a surface-based adventure, but you can offer as many significant choices as the party would presumably have in a game of surface exploration, and create a similar feeling of exploration with your megadungeon.

One of these special sites could be an underground village or township. Conceptually, such a location would have much in common with a space station (an image that may help those that have GM'd science fiction games before as well), in terms of the use of corridors and main thoroughfares to connect the rooms that make up the central area of this "Dungeon Town." The NPCs here offer the party great opportunities for urban-based adventures, rumors of other sites and patrons for other adventures. Herein may be found exiles from the surface world interacting with diplomats from great underground clans or ruled by powerful denizens from the underworld or even realms beyond that which we know. A priest of healing may feel it is her mission to bring peace to those of this forsaken "Under-shire", and has erected a temple or shrine that is considered sanctuary by the natives of the region, in order to stay in the good graces of the cleric. Maybe there's even an arena or an arcane academy here, depending on who rules this place. The great part about this concept is that any idea you don't use for your "Dungeon Town" becomes fodder for any of the other special sites you've created. Instead of being ruled by a great dragon with a penchant for watching gladiatorial combat, you decide to make the village fall under the auspices of an insane mage. In that case, one of the other locations may focus on a great dragon with his own private arena, and the small community of raiders and slavers he has gathered under him to support his desires for interesting and diverse gladiatorial experiences.

The other sites on your campaign map, I mean, in your megadungeon, could include locales similar to the following:
  • Temple of Gold: This site was once a great temple dedicated to a God of Wealth, before disaster either killed its population or drove them away. The temple itself, gilded in gold and filled with untold treasures, is all that remains behind.
  • Mushroom Jungles: This vast underground cavern (or series of caverns), is filled with a fungal jungle of immense proportions. Rare and unusual plants grow beneath the giant toadstools, and unusual variations of underground jungle critters and natives harass all who travel through this place. Still, the alchemical value of some of these plants makes the efforts worthwhile.
  • Tomb of the Gods: This vast crypt is actually the final resting place of several demigods that fell in some ancient divine conflict. Entombed here by the followers of the losing side, these corpses contain within them the spark of divinity, for those skilled enough to access it. As such, this Tomb and the bodies therein are often sought by those seeking immortality, divine power, the resurrection of a fallen god, and others of similar purpose.
  • Lake of Stars: The bioluminescent denizens of this underground lake create the impression of balls of light swarming under its surface. For those that have not seen the nighttime sky in years, if at all (such as most denizens of this realm), this body of water has been poetically dubbed the Lake of Stars. A number of small islands serve as homes for tribes of aquatic humanoids, who bring all of their captured treasures and prisoners from raids back home as offerings to their bizarre gods.
  • The Undercastle: This region of fortified rooms forms a bastion or stronghold for a dedicated militaristic order. Whether they remain, or if their undead corpses, driven into eternal service by their severe dedication, still defend the Undercastle is a matter for the GM to decide. Either way, such a location may serve as a base at higher levels. Of course, such fortifications would exist if there weren't something to defend against...
  • The Magus's Sanctum: This unusual and isolated section of the megadungeon once served as the private sanctum, personal library and well-equipped laboratory for a famous (or infamous) mage of long ago. The mage may not be dead and gone for decades, or may still remain as a lich or similar form of undead. Untold arcane treasures are said to lie within the walls of this personal sanctuary.

I'm sure you get the idea. If you have any thoughts, comments or questions, I'd love to hear them, so please feel free to respond in the comment section below.

With Regards,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: Tales of Port Kar...

Good Evening, All:

After the Nova-Kintar campaign, I ran a 2.5 year long campaign called Tales of Port Kar, using HERO System 4th Edition and the Fantasy HERO rules (plus plenty of house rules, of course, because HERO System is more of a toolkit than a rules system). The primary conceit was that Tales of Port Kar was Cinemax's fantasy series in response to the growing popularity of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I started each session with a description of the episode's intro, including a few cut scenes to help foreshadow elements of the day's adventure. This was back when I was still running eight hour sessions, and the response was great. The players really got into it, trying to work in the cut scenes and keeping with the television fantasy show format in terms of description. Our adventurers hit the high seas, saved their homeport, fought dinosaurs and demons, travelled back in time to create a prophecy, and ultimately fought against and destroyed the King of Demons, Sandamos. (This is where I first came up with the name Sandamos, which has remained as the Lord of Demons in many of my campaigns since.)

Unlike Nova-Kintar and its Greyhawk-esque pantheon of gods, Tales of Port Kar addressed the spiritual needs of the setting through churches and theologies, including a healing church that used rings to demonstrate a person's place within the hierarchy (the more rings you wore, the higher you were in the church) and a rune-jin who combined Oriental magic with symbols and runes to forge some spectacular special effects and powers. We had a ninja-pirate-poet, a ranger/shaman who was worshiped by Jermlaine-like cave dwellers at one point, an angellic vestal virgin who was corrupted by the forces of evil, and a mad inventor. I used my considerable skills as a horribly bad impersonator to portray "guest stars" in the series, the most memorable of which was a paladin-king based on Sean Connery.

Since Tales of Port Kar supposedly was a Cinemax series, we dealt with issues of sexuality as an adjunct of our adventures, and all in all, I found that the game went very well. I was fortunate enough to have mature gamers who did not turn the game into the mess it could have been when such matters were brought up, and like Nova-Kintar, this was a campaign in which I felt the players had a lot of personal investment. I really loved the level of Asian influence I was able to bring to Port Kar, and the use of a Fantasy TV series as the core conceit helped us focus on cinematic scenes that were easy to picture and did not bog down in day-to-day details of shopping or walking from Point A to Point B. This was also the first campaign in which I portrayed orcs as Jamaican pirates that went by the name of the Stefari (derived from the word Rastafarian.)

When the prophecy that the players had created had been fulfilled, and the Lord of Demons was slain, I felt the game had come to a close, so I wrapped it up and moved on. Tales of Port Kar was a change from Nova-Kintar in many ways, including gaming system, players, presentation style, setting and so on. I found it very successful on a number of levels, but when it was done, I never tried to go back to the setting again, nor did I ever really feel the desire to make that effort. Over time, some of the elements of the setting have found their way into other games, as is my way. If I ever compile a single world from my past campaigns, I think I'll likely use some of the flavor of the magic systems, as well as the use of Asian influences in portions of the campaign world, because it worked so well with Tales of Port Kar. Again, we can see the influence of time travel as a major element of plot development. This becomes less with future campaigns, but in the beginning of my GMing career, I enjoyed creating a setting and then letting the players change it through their actions. While I stopped using time travel as the means to do so, I still enjoy empowering players to make choices that have impact.

With Regards,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: A Simple World Map of Nova-Kintar...

Good Morning, All:

One of my favorite parts of the Nova-Kintar Campaign (of which there were several), was the world map I had created for it. I was in error in my last post: my desk globe was actually a representation of Abraham Ortelius's world map from the first world atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, published in 1570. It was different enough from Earth to spark my imagination, but also close enough to pull on the subconscious expectations of the players to help fill in the gaps when needed.

My original map (which I sadly cannot locate at the moment), was drawn and colored by hand on a poster-sized piece of hex paper sold by The Armory back in the day. I had only used the top half of the map, because the hexes ran the direction I wanted them to, and I implemented the icosahedral layout of the world maps of Traveller, so get something slightly akin to a flattened representation of Nova-Kintar's surface. The original map was 105 "world" hexes (250-mile hexes) in circumference. Each world-triangle was thus 21 hexes in height, and thus the polar caps extended 8 hexes from the poles. The entire map covered approximately 4620 hexes.

In preparing this post yesterday, I got nostalgic, of course. Since I could not find my map, I started thinking about redoing it in Hexographer. That was a bit overwhelming for simple nostalgia (not to mention a little time consuming), so I quickly decided to aim for something simpler, and thought about a Traveller world map. Using the classic Traveller world map, which is 45 hexes in circumference, each hex would thus be ~550 miles across, and the polar caps would extend 3.5 hexes from the poles. The entire map would consist of about 900 hexes. It was with that in mind that I decided to quickly create a simple continental map of Nova-Kintar, to share with you the basics of the world. Here's what I came up with:

Continental Map of Nova-Kintar

The continents of Nova-Kintar were:
  • Tanalis - the northern-most continent; home to Synovia, Pasalovakia and a majority of the first two-thirds of the Nova-Kintar Campaign.
  • Mazteklan - the northern of the two continents in the eastern hemisphere; joined by an isthmus of land to Cameria.
  • Cameria - the southern of the two continents in the eastern hemisphere; joined by an isthmus of land to Mazteklan; home to the last third of the Nova-Kintar Campaign.
  • Uporea - the southeastern subcontinent of the western hemisphere; south of Akirfa, attached to Neidan.
  • Akirfa - the northern of the two continents of the western hemisphere; north of Uporea, northeast of Neidan.
  • Neidan - the southern of the two continents of the western hemisphere; attached to Uporea, southwest of Akirfa.
  • "Frostlands" - the southern-most continent, surrounds a small sea over the actual South Pole of Nova-Kintar. I never thought about it much, as it was under the southern ice caps, which is why I can't remember it's name after all these years.
  • Lemuria - an island subcontinent in the eastern hemisphere south of Tanalis, resembling a very small Australia, if you will.

I may still sit down with Hexographer and whip out a world map based on the above. I think that, of any of my past worlds, this would be the world map I'd be most likely to pull together for my "ultimate campaign setting." Indeed, the memory of this map is the basis of the world I described as Taerantha in the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting.

With Regards,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: Nova-Kintar

Good Evening, All:

My last post has had a great amount of response, and I'm very pleased to see the variety of comments I've gotten, as well as from whom. Thank you to everyone who responded. Rob Conley, who published the wonderful Supplement VI: The Majestic Wilderlands, suggested that I post a few details of past campaigns, in the hopes of helping me cull some of my previous work toward the creation of that elusive "perfect campaign milieu."

Nova-Kintar was my longest campaign, running over seven years and using the AD&D 2nd Edition rules (and the Skills & Powers optional books toward the end). The world map was based on a Vincenzo Coronelli replica globe turned upside down, under the premise that the Coronelli map was actually accurate for an alternate Earth with the north and south poles switched. The campaign primarily took place on the continent that was a combination of what would be Antarctica and Australia on Earth, which sat atop the North Pole of the world of Nova-Kintar. The continent's name was Tanalis, although that rarely came up, and a majority of the action took place in the Kingdom of Synovia, the great Walled City of Catabolas, and the wilderness around this region. This world supported a pantheon of Greyhawk-esque proportions, with well over forty deities listed in the core house rules document. The players mostly played themselves as characters mysteriously transported from Earth to Nova-Kintar. Over the course of the campaign, they obtained swords that together allowed time travel (technically travel between parallel dimensions that greatly resembled time travel to the uninitiated and unknowing.) They freed an insane mage from captivity and then had to hunt him down and slay him, built a city of their own, fought a war with the neighboring kingdom of Pasalovakia, and eventually worked directly for the gods to battle the influence of that destroyer of universes known as the Something. They did a lot of other things, as well, but these are the big world-changing events that I recall off hand. It was the ultimate success against the Something that really made me feel that the world was done, since I couldn't come up with anything to top that. Over fifty different players participated in the game over its seven year history, and I still look back on it with a lot of pride and happiness.

The latter years of the Nova-Kintar campaign took place on the earthly North American continent known as Cameria (hence the name of the main continent of the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting.) In Nova-Kintar, the continent of Cameria was populated by cultures similar to those that contacted North America of our world in pre-Columbian times, including Aztec, Chinese, Egyptian, Native American and Norse cultures, as well as the Republic of Roanoke, where the lost colony of Roanoke ended up when they disappeared from our world. I had a lot of fun with that particular arrangement, and that sub-setting lent itself well to some interesting and non-standard cultural interactions. The Englishmen of the Republic of Roanoke had some interesting challenges with orcish "Vikings", four-armed Native American tribesmen, Aztec raiders and a brief brush with an Egyptian-style mummy and its servitors. I didn't get to pursue as much of the setting as I wanted before I found I needed to wrap up the campaign with the "Coming of the Something", but what I did get to explore was a lot of fun, and it taught me a lot about what I like and don't like as campaign content.

And thus ends a brief description of my first successful campaign world. What was your first successful campaign world like? What elements might it have shared with my Nova-Kintar?


Monday, November 15, 2010

The Concept of the Elusive "Perfect Milieu"...

Good Evening, All:

Have there ever been times where you just wanted to start all over with a new campaign setting, hoping that this time around, it captures everything you've been looking for in a game world? I find that I'm always suffering from that nagging quest for the elusive "perfect milieu", that one setting that will hold me over for the rest of my gaming days, the ultimate expression of my GMing mastery and creative outlets. I am constantly amazed that other gamers on the net have such a world, one to which they are devoted, and which reflects the totality of their creative efforts. I can't ever seem to capture my thoughts adequately without need to make changes, and yet I see that there are those that either got it right the first time, or have no qualms with making changes in midstream, so to speak.

I suppose that some of this stems from shifting creative foci on my part as well, my gamer’s "ADD", if you will. Most of the time, I tend to run a straight Vanilla Fantasy setting, and strive to make my campaign backgrounds distinctive, flavorful and involving. The secret to presenting such a setting lies in the details, of course. However, as the campaign progresses onward, I almost always find something lacking in the worlds I've created. Maybe it's details about the pantheons, or perhaps the relationship of polities to one another. Sometimes the geography just doesn't excite me after a while, and sometimes I feel like I've painted myself into a corner with a particular campaign plot arc, leaving me with nowhere to go (that I would enjoy running, at least with the gamers I have at the time) after the arc has run its course.

I’m also torn between the kind of world I’d like to design compared to the kind of world that will attract other gamers. I love worlds that tap into the same flavor as the Sword & Sorcery or Sword & Planet literary genres, a world of pulpy high adventure. However, I find that it’s often hard to find gamers that are interested in playing in such a world. Most gamers appear to want the High Magic worlds currently popularized by Wizards of the Coast and other such publishers, and so tend to dislike the "low magic, high action" feel of the worlds I would really enjoy designing and running. I suppose that I probably should stop calling my games fantasy games, and instead call them adventure/pulp games set in a fantasy world. I wonder if that would get me more players that would enjoy the same experiences. Obviously, the tensions of balancing a milieu my players would enjoy with a campaign setting I personally would find most rewarding form a part of that sense of dissatisfaction and elusiveness.

That’s one of the reasons I’m always working on other campaign ideas, such as the World Within. If this is going to be a world I design for myself and that’s all, then I’m going to make it as "low magic, high action" as I can. If I never get to play in the setting because it’s just too different for most casual gamers, so be it. I can always continue to run a "high magic" setting for the players to keep them happy, and shift my work over from one to the other as I find the ideas useful.

Do any of you have similar issues with your campaign world designs over time? Do you have a single world you run your campaigns in, or does each campaign also require a new campaign world? What do you like in your campaigns, either as a GM or as a player?

With Regards,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Feast of Heroes...

Good Morning, All:

For those in the United State, Happy Veteran's Day! As of today, this blog is one year old. I've posted 254 times in the last year, and I have some active followers that post in the comments regularly. I've written a good deal about a number of topics, and this blog has been instrumental in the creation of a number of gaming products, as well as allowing me to develop a lot of gaming material for my campaign. I must say that posting here has motivated me to do more writing than I would have otherwise, and I am very thankful for that opportunity.

I consider myself fortunate to have friends that follow many diverse paths, and I have learned much from them. Today is Veteran's Day here, but those of the Asatru faith also recognize today as the Feast of Heroes, or more specifically, the Feast of the Einherjar. The chosen heroes who sit in Odin’s Hall are the Einherjar. Today the Asatruar honor those dead kin who gave their lives for Family and Folk. If you have friends or family who died in battle, visit their graves today, if that is not possible, drink a libation in their memory. Even if you are not a follower of the Nordic gods, those warriors who have passed to defend and protect us and our country are worthy and deserving of our recognition and remembrance on this day.


With Regards,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stellar Quest: The "Season One" Campaign...

Good Afternoon, All:

I've been thinking about Stellar Quest lately, even as I've been working on the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide, and it occurs to me that having a brief campaign outline for an imaginary "Season One of Stellar Quest" might be a good idea. In particular, I've been giving considerable thought to the fact that the Hadrons and the Artathi are on the coreward side of the Confederation, as well as some major unclaimed worlds frequented by the Romanni. I think this gives us an excellent opportunity to explore elements of the setting that were not touched by the inspirational material for Stellar Quest, namely the Gorn, Orion Pirates and Kzinti, and their relationships with the Federation.

Obviously, each group involved should have a goal that is explored over the course of "Season One". My immediate thoughts leapt on the Gorn... er, the Hadrons. Our favorite reptilians are likely seeking choice planets in the unclaimed territories, at least one of which should have a new Confederation colony present. This gives us the chance to reenact the "Arena" episode, if we so desired, but that would also require us to bring in the Transcendants or Devas. Instead, I'll skip the "Arena" episode and instead offer the Hadrons a chance to escalate their perception of the Confederation's preparations to launch an all-out attack.

The Artathi are likely interested in seeking out Progenitor technology in this region of space, for both power and religious significance. This could let us explore social-religious themes, if we so desired, and builds on the role that the Progenitors hold in Artathi culture. It also gives us a chance to integrate the Progenitors into the game, and introduce any of a number of non-corporeal races from a time period between the Progenitors and the current galactic age.

The Romanni are very common in this region, and this gives us a chance to look into their nomadic culture. A Romanni clan could perhaps take exception to the actions of the crew during their first encounter, and the fallout between the clan and the Confederation, followed by internal conflict within the Romanni, could make for some interesting background development there, as well.

Of course, there's also room for some adventures that simply build the setting, and bring in other influences from the inspirational material, including a parallel dimension, at least one time travel adventure, and several encounters with powerful psions, advanced lifeforms and the occasional alien predator.

The question then arises: Should "Season One" be released as part of the main rulebook? Or should "Season One" be a campaign/adventure sourcebook on its own?

What do you think?

With Regards,

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Book of Races: Twelve New Races for Old School Games...

Good Afternoon, All:

I'd like to take a moment to announce my latest fantasy supplement, the Book of Races, which describes twelve new races for your Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord or other Old School fantasy campaign. Here's the blurb I've been posting to announce it:

If you are like many fantasy gamers, you've probably spent a small portion of your gaming budget here and there collecting plastic miniatures, and perhaps you've ended up with a number of figures for characters that aren't detailed in Swords & Wizardry or some other preferred retro-clone system. Maybe you are trying to convert modules or campaign settings from one of the latter editions of the "World's Most Popular Roleplaying System" into a simpler and potentially more elegant gaming system, and want to offer new racial options for characters in such a campaign. It might even be that you are seeking new and unusual racial character options to add spice and variety to your own homebrew setting. Whatever your reasons for wanting more Old School character races, the Book of Races intended to help you meet those needs and then some.

Welcome to the Book of Races. This supplement has been developed with the Swords & Wizardry rules system in mind, and should prove easy to use for both Referees and players alike. Other "retro-clone" rules systems may find the material useful with only minimal conversion efforts. This supplement is divided into two sections. The first section, New Races, describes a dozen new races for use in your fantasy campaigns. In this section, each race is described with game mechanics as suggested by the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, which details fantasy races as a game mechanic separate from character classes. The second section, Racial Classes, provides specific racial classes for Referees that prefer their non-human characters to operate in a character class structure similar to Fighting Men, Clerics and Magic-Users.

The Book of Races details the Artathi, the Duar, the Elde, the Eldeblooded, the Feytouched, the Giantkin, the Goblin, the Hyrknoff, the Kelshan, the Ordath, the Vaelan and the Wyrmblooded. As an added bonus, an appendix detailing an alternate Simple D6 check system is included at the end of this supplement.

Swords & Wizardry, S&W, and Mythmere Games are the trademarks of Matthew J. Finch. The author of this supplement is not affiliated with Matthew J. Finch or Mythmere Games.

This 22-page product can be found on RPGNow (in PDF, $3.99):

Or on Lulu (in PDF, $3.99, and Print-On-Demand, $8.99):

With Regards,

Friday, November 05, 2010

100 Random Plot Seeds...

Good Evening:

I don't have much to write about tonight, so instead I'll post One Hundred Random Plot Seeds. Whenever you find yourself with a bizarre need for a plot, perhaps one of these might spark your imagination enough to inspire your next adventure. If need be, you can always treat this as a random chart, rolling percentile dice to choose your next challenging plot seed. Should these plot seeds help you, please feel free to comment on how.

  1. The party must protect a dark, deceitful shaman from the actions of a swift, honorable courtier, who is motivated by love.
  2. The party must help a weatherbeaten, over-confident cultist locate a shipment of illegal goods to further his ambition against a wild-eyed, honorable adventurer.
  3. The party must hunt down a clumsy, deceitful druid for punishment by a wild-eyed, boisterous ritualist.
  4. The party must help an elderly, angry gladiator locate an an oil enchanted with a moderately powerful arcane spell to further his ambition against a clumsy, traitorous necromancer.
  5. The party must retrieve an elderly, generous necromancer, or a collection of secret missives, despite interference from an ongoing military action or natural disaster.
  6. The party must deliver an an a magical battle axe to a branded, pacifistic illusionist, despite interference from a hirsute, heroic ritualist.
  7. The party must retrieve a hirsute, generous ritualist, or a collection of secret missives, despite interference from an ongoing military action or natural disaster.
  8. The party must help a weatherbeaten, envious weaponmaster locate a collection of lost lore to further his ambition against an attractive, pious tribesman.
  9. The party must rescue an alert, pacifistic sorcerer from the cruel maneuvers of a deformed, moderate assassin.
  10. The party must protect a nimble, delusional acrobat against a bald, angry mercenary who has gone insane.
  11. The party must hunt down an ugly, stoic crusader for punishment by a nimble, over-confident acrobat.
  12. The party must retrieve a lame, insecure mercenary, or a shipment of illegal goods, despite interference from an ongoing military action or natural disaster.
  13. The party must become involved in a love triangle involving a weatherbeaten, vengeful martial artist and a crusty, kind explorer.
  14. The party must help a hirsute, proud sorcerer locate a collection of lost lore to further his ambition against a weatherbeaten, moderate trader.
  15. The party must help two lovers overcome interference created by an enormous, meticulous cultist.
  16. The party must help a weatherbeaten, curious gladiator, who is being forced by an obese, stubborn spy to choose between two loved ones.
  17. The party must assist a blind, generous serf, who is fleeing punishment from an obese, prudish outlander.
  18. The party must rescue an ugly, moderate magus from the cruel maneuvers of a bumbling, delusional bodyguard.
  19. The party must rescue an elegant, pious crusader from the cruel maneuvers of a robust, cowardly cultist.
  20. The party must secretly consult with an obese, ravenous crusader on a delicate matter, while avoiding the attentions of an agile, prudish scholar.
  21. The party must hunt down an one-eyed, honest mercenary for punishment by a hirsute, stoic woodsman.
  22. The party must secretly consult with a deaf, flirtacious necromancer on a delicate matter, while avoiding the attentions of a dark, loyal sorcerer.
  23. The party must help a branded, flirtacious slave track down a long-lost love.
  24. The party must deliver an an a powerfully enchanted suit of hide armor to a wild-eyed, cowardly knight, despite interference from an agile, cautious priest.
  25. The party must assist a deformed, cautious knight, who is fleeing punishment from a small, proud cultist.
  26. The party must intervene in a family squabble between an one-armed, proud gladiator and an enormous, curious spy.
  27. The party must aid a pallid, flirtacious woodsman in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals.
  28. The party must aid a swift, boisterous knight in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals.
  29. The party must map an unexplored area, despite interference from a sickly, honorable commoner.
  30. The party must aid a blind, curious mercenary in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his family.
  31. The party must aid an agile, prudish explorer in rebellion against a bumbling, determined priest.
  32. The party must help a bumbling, slovenly thief, who is being forced by a weatherbeaten, proud mercenary to choose between two loved ones.
  33. The party must help two lovers overcome interference created by an one-armed, arrogant crusader.
  34. The party must hinder a courtship between a scrawny, insecure woodsman and a robust, angry adventurer, who are unknowingly related.
  35. The party must help a scrawny, boisterous knight locate a collection of lost lore to further his ambition against a lame, proud druid.
  36. The party must protect an agile, proud martial artist against a bumbling, arrogant serf who has gone insane.
  37. The party must help a deformed, proud trader atone to a wild-eyed, kind outlander for illicit or immoral past actions.
  38. The party must help a nimble, angry monk, who is being forced by an one-eyed, loyal priest to choose between two loved ones.
  39. The party must help a blind, heroic serf atone to a skinny, humble monk for illicit or immoral past actions.
  40. The party must deliver an an a magical suit of breast plate to an elderly, prudish spy, despite interference from an obese, kind outlander.
  41. The party must help a wild-eyed, insecure scholar track down a long-lost love.
  42. The party must assist a wild-eyed, delusional weaponmaster in a daring enterprise, despite the efforts of an elegant, heroic trader.
  43. The party must secretly consult with a scrawny, immoral necromancer on a delicate matter, while avoiding the attentions of a branded, greedy assassin.
  44. The party must help an alert, delusional gladiator who has been falsely accused by a pallid, traitorous shaman of illicit or immoral actions.
  45. The party must aid an one-legged, prudish crusader, who has fallen on hard times.
  46. The party must assist a blind, envious spellsword, who is fleeing punishment from a swift, honest explorer.
  47. The party must assist a hirsute, proud weaponmaster, who is fleeing punishment from a deaf, prudish woodsman.
  48. The party must deliver a pallid, envious bodyguard to an one-eyed, stoic martial artist, despite interference from a bald, arrogant priest.
  49. The party must aid a hirsute, delusional woodsman who has, out of jealousy, falsely accused a robust, cowardly gladiator of actions against a loved one.
  50. The party must help two lovers overcome interference created by a robust, honorable bodyguard.
  51. The party must seek out a pallid, heroic mercenary, who unknowingly killed a relative.
  52. The party must retrieve an alert, boisterous slave, or the personal effects of a fallen hero, despite interference from an ongoing military action or natural disaster.
  53. The party must aid a hirsute, stoic knight in giving up everything for his beloved.
  54. The party must exact revenge upon a nimble, honest scout for crimes against a bumbling, proud priest.
  55. The party must map an unexplored area, despite interference from an elderly, determined illusionist.
  56. The party must present a request for assistance before a swift, heroic illusionist against the schemes of a clumsy, stubborn spy.
  57. The party must help a lame, flirtacious sorcerer atone to a deformed, curious bodyguard for illicit or immoral past actions.
  58. The party must hunt down a wild-eyed, moderate spellsword for punishment by an elderly, honorable tribesman.
  59. The party must recover a lost work of art lost through the naivete of an ugly, loyal scholar to a small, immoral weaponmaster with a conniving nature.
  60. The party must protect a brawny, determined scholar as they request assistance from a branded, honest adventurer for actions against loved one by a swift, angry explorer.
  61. The party must exact revenge upon an one-legged, traitorous illusionist for crimes against a robust, cowardly noble.
  62. The party must deliver an elderly, stoic spellsword to a blind, delusional martial artist, despite interference from a youthful, insecure spy.
  63. The party must help a clumsy, immoral illusionist track down a long-lost love.
  64. The party must hunt down an elderly, envious priest for punishment by an agile, honorable gladiator.
  65. The party must help a small, honest knight, who is being forced by a brawny, vengeful necromancer to choose between two loved ones.
  66. The party must rescue an enormous, flirtacious sorcerer from the cruel maneuvers of a skinny, pacifistic assassin.
  67. The party must help a branded, pacifistic woodsman, who is being forced by a bumbling, arrogant tribesman to choose between two loved ones.
  68. The party must aid an attractive, boisterous spy in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals.
  69. The party must help a swift, generous scholar atone to an agile, ravenous trader for illicit or immoral past actions.
  70. The party must hunt down an attractive, stoic outlander for punishment by a wild-eyed, greedy weaponmaster.
  71. The party must recover a lost work of art lost through the naivete of an obese, greedy slave to an attractive, heroic trader with a conniving nature.
  72. The party must help a skinny, cowardly adventurer who has been falsely accused by a lame, stoic martial artist of illicit or immoral actions.
  73. The party must help an alert, envious scout locate a collection of secret missives to further his ambition against an elegant, greedy assassin.
  74. The party must retrieve a lost work of art from a remote location, in competition with a weatherbeaten, cautious mercenary.
  75. The party must help a swift, humble mercenary, who is being forced by an obese, ravenous acrobat to choose between two loved ones.
  76. The party must provide disaster relief/humanitarian aid to a hirsute, meticulous martial artist, despite interference from a branded, prudish knight.
  77. The party must protect a deaf, pacifistic mercenary from the actions of an obese, greedy monk, who is motivated by love.
  78. The party must intervene in a family squabble between a robust, cautious ritualist and a deaf, angry scholar.
  79. The party must assist an obese, honest knight in a daring enterprise, despite the efforts of a crusty, pious trader.
  80. The party must abduct a bald, angry cultist from a deformed, greedy magus.
  81. The party must aid an obese, flirtacious weaponmaster in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals.
  82. The party must aid a scarred, honest scout in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals.
  83. The party must exact revenge upon an enormous, arrogant noble for crimes against a hirsute, envious bodyguard.
  84. The party must hunt down an elegant, honorable ritualist for punishment by an agile, meticulous slave.
  85. The party must seek out a bald, cowardly acrobat, who unknowingly killed a relative.
  86. The party must exact revenge upon a wild-eyed, vengeful gladiator for crimes against an one-legged, angry priest.
  87. The party must reveal the dishonor performed by a deformed, moderate spy against a dark, insecure necromancer.
  88. The party must protect a scarred, envious scholar against a branded, clueless noble who has gone insane.
  89. The party must assist an one-legged, slovenly serf in a daring enterprise, despite the efforts of a swift, flirtacious ritualist.
  90. The party must help an attractive, arrogant monk track down a long-lost love.
  91. The party must provide disaster relief/humanitarian aid to an agile, insecure sorcerer, despite interference from an attractive, delusional monk.
  92. The party must help a clumsy, humble mercenary who has been falsely accused by an one-eyed, pacifistic noble of illicit or immoral actions.
  93. The party must help two lovers overcome interference created by an one-eyed, envious explorer.
  94. The party must aid an enormous, cowardly crusader in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals.
  95. The party must present a request for assistance before an one-eyed, curious scout against the schemes of an one-legged, over-confident sorcerer.
  96. The party must abduct an ugly, stubborn ritualist from a crusty, pacifistic illusionist.
  97. The party must intervene in a family squabble between an alert, traitorous adventurer and an attractive, delusional outlander.
  98. The party must map an unexplored area, despite interference from a lame, prudish magus.
  99. The party must map an unexplored area, despite interference from a scarred, slovenly serf.
  100. The party must help a dark, stoic serf atone to a pallid, curious explorer for illicit or immoral past actions.

Hope These Help,

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

One Page Plot: The Icon of Golden Reverie...

Good Morning, All:

Here's another One Page Plot, this one quite linear in implementation. Sadly, given the random plot seed I started with, there wasn't much room for a more open plot structure. Still, it should make for a few entertaining evenings, one would think.

Title: The Icon of Golden Reverie

Synopsis: The party must retrieve a lost work of art from a remote location, in competition with a religious zealot.

Adversaries: Shimmering Mind of the Piercing Scepter is a zealous servant of a Midnight Lord, an undead necromancer with dreams of animating a dead god and imbuing itself with its divine spark. A talented spellsword, Shimmering Mind went insane long ago by extensive exposure to the corrupting taint of a dead god's blood, and is devoted to gathering the power of the dead god so that the Midnight Lord may be reborn as the heir to the god's divine power. Shimmering Mind's immediate goal is the recovery of the Icon of Golden Reverie, which is said to be forged from godflesh given freely before the death of the fallen goddess. His ultimate goal, however, is to see the dead god rise once again (whether in the form of the Midnight Lord or otherwise), and become of the greatest of its worshipers. Shimmering Mind prefers the devastation of fire-based magic over that of others, and has a magic sword that grants him protection from fire-based attacks.

Other NPCs: Scholar-Magus Oleandros is a sage who believes he has discovered the location of the Shrine of Inscrutable Mists. Given that the shrine is located in an isolated region atop a lofty mountain peak, Magus Oleandros seeks the service of professional explorers to retrieve the Icon of Golden Reverie, which is said to lie within the shrine.

Locales: The Shrine of Inscrutable Mists is located high atop Chimera's Peak. Given the region's significance to the fallen goddess known as the Lady of Woes, the slopes team with aberrant lifeforms twisted by the presence of the goddess's ichor. The Shrine itself is protected by a Sovereign Orb, which is perhaps one of the goddess's own eyes.

Plot Hooks: The party may become involved in this plot through a number of means:

* The party may be hired by the Scholar-Magus Oleandros to retrieve the Icon of Golden Reverie from the Shrine of Inscrutable Mists.

* The party may discover a small group of burnt and charred corpses. Searching the bodies uncovers a letter from Oleandros explaining the quest to the adventurers that had since become the victims of Shimmering Mind, and providing a map to the Shrine and description of the Icon.

* The party could uncover references to the Shrine and Icon in an ancient tome found in a reference library affiliated with a Midnight Lord or located within the Madlands.

Basic Outline: This adventure is fairly linear, as far as adventures go. Once the party discovers the existence of the Icon and the location of the Shrine, this adventure only becomes active once they start off into the wilderness in search of Chimera's Peak.

In addition to the usual wilderness encounters, the party will discover signs that another adventurer is traveling in the same direction, and has control over powerful fire-based magic.

At the base of the mountain, the party will need to deal with, or bypass, a tribe of Chimera-herding savages that stalk the area. These savages view the mountain as sacred territory, and do their best to prevent others from trespassing.

In addition to chimeras, numerous aberrations and other divinely warped creatures inhabit the slopes of Chimera's Peak, causing problems for those that make their way up the mountain side.

The peak is shrouded in clouds and mist, and the shrine is difficult to find. When the party arrives, Shimmering Mind is there in meditation before the Shrine. He will not enter until he has recited a lengthy mantra that requires the better part of a day in meditation. The party may enter with him, or travel in alone. Although a zealous dedicant, Shimmering Mind does not appear more unstable than any other worshiper of a fallen god under most circumstances.

The shrine itself is a small complex of four or five rooms, the innermost of which contains a Sovereign Orb, which Shimmering Mind will regard as the eye of the fallen goddess. He will attempt to gain the Icon through persuasion, and only resort to subdual strikes against the Orb if persuasion fails and combat ensues. If the party prematurely initiates combat in the presence of Shimmering Mind, he will defend the Orb first, then resume his efforts to persuade it to relinquish the Icon.

The return trip from the Shrine to civilization offers little new that wasn't encountered previously on the trip to the Shrine.

Complications: The party may encounter a number of complications over the course of this adventure:

* Shimmering Mind is a warped and twisted soul whose fanaticism may not be readily apparent, but may cause complications as events unfold.

* The Chimera Herders are vigilant against trespassers onto the sacred ground of Chimera's Peak.

* The Sovereign Orb is the final guardian of the Icon of Golden Reverie, and does not respond well when attacked.

Rewards: The Icon of Golden Reverie is made from the flesh of a fallen goddess, gilded by gold leaf. It bears an unusual dweomer that grants its bearer mystical insight into the dreams and desires of others, and even a limited ability to read thoughts. With proper control, the Icon can even cause confusion.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Page Plot: Challenge of the Exiled Lord...

Good Morning:

I've decided that I need to push myself a little creatively, so I've decided to try writing up a One Page Plot in an hour or less, from conception to completion. Below is the result of my Self-Challenge a few hours later, amidst a number of interruptions, based on the results of a set of random chart to determine the basic plot synopsis.

Plot Name: Challenge of the Exiled Lord

Synopsis: The party must protect an one-legged, greedy trader from the actions of a branded, slovenly noble, who is motivated by love.

Adversaries: Exiled from his homeland through the machinations of a romantic rival, Lord Calic bears a prominent brand displaying his status to the world. Broken by the loss of his land and the love of Lady Sandremona, Lord Calic has ceased to care for his general appearance, and wanders listlessly about in pursuit of information that would prove his innocence in the crimes of which he has been accused. Recently, the exiled lord has learned that the one-legged merchant Cheremanthos the Lame was the man who coordinated the actions that framed him. Lord Calic's immediate goal is to capture Chermanthos and interrogate him for information; the lord's ultimate goal is to prove his innocence and reunite with the woman he loves, Lady

Other NPCs: Cheremanthos the Lame is not a nice man. He's a greedy merchant with numerous ties to the local Thieves' Guild. The one-legged man was hired by Calic's romantic rival, Lord Zerin, to frame Lord Calic for treasonous acts against their mutual liege, whose daughter both men desired. Cheremanthos brokered the contract, and has since used the information as blackmail against Lord Zerin to place himself in a prominent position among the local merchants.

Lord Zerin is an ambitious noble of the courts seeking the hand of Lady Sandremona, so that he may become heir to his liege's lands "should something untoward happen to the old man." In order to deal with a romantic rival, he hired the rogue Cheremanthos to broker arrangements to frame Lord Calic for treason. In the years that have passed since, Lord Zerin has come to regret working with Cheremanthos, but is mostly focused on his upcoming nuptials to Lady Sandremona, which will secure his place as the heir to his liege. He has no love for his bride, nor she for him.

Lady Sandremona truly loves Lord Calic, but is ashamed of the treasonous acts attributed to the lord, believing them to be true. A secret missive from Lord Calic recently informed her of his plans to kidnap the one-legged merchant Cheremanthos, prove his innocence and interrupt her wedding to Lord Zerin in order to properly claim her hand. Afraid that Lord Calic will be executed if discovered within the liege's lands, Lady Sandremona secretly seeks champions who will protect Cheremanthos and, should they discover Lord Calic, escort him outside the region for his own safety.

Locales: Scenes for this plot likely involve the crowded streets of the city, as well as the ballroom of the sovereign's palace, where the wedding between Lord Zerin and Lady Sandremona will take place.

Plot Hooks: The PCs could become engaged in the plot in a number of ways:

* Lady Sandremona may hire them to protect Cheremanthos the Lame, in hopes of having them locate and escort Lord Calic safely from her father's lands.
* The party may witness an unkempt man, branded with the mark of exile, attack a peg-legged merchant, who calls out for help from any of the passers-by.
* Lord Zerin, tired of living under the thumb of Cheremanthos the Lame and fearful that the merchant may attempt to interfere with his wedding, hires the party to "deal with the merchant," only to have them arrive at the same time as Lord Calic.

Basic Outline: Some preliminary scenes may involve the party being hired to protect or "take care of" Cheremanthos the Lame. The plot starts when the party meets Cheremanthos, and witnesses Lord Calic's attempt to kidnap the merchant. In the first true scene of the plot, Lord Calic accosts the merchant Cheremanthos the Lame on a side street. The party has the chance to intervene. If the party succeeds in subduing Lord Calic, he will tell his side of the story. If Lord Calic escapes with Cheremanthos, then the party will need to investigate further. If Lord Calic escapes without Cheremanthos, the party will hear Cheremanthos's story about the treasonous acts of Lord Calic, and told of a reward for him, dead or alive.

The plot can develop in a number of ways, depending on which way events go. With or without the PCs' help, Lord Calic will continue to attempt to capture Cheremanthos. On the day of the wedding, he will attempt to interrupt the ceremony and challenge Lord Zerin to a duel. The PCs can either aid him or hinder him in his efforts.

If the PCs capture Lord Calic, they can either escort him from the region or keep him holed up somewhere until after the wedding. He will, of course, try to escape and gather information so he can interrupt the wedding ceremony and try to win the hand of Lady Sandremona. If the PCs side with him upon hearing his side of the story, they can become his accomplices.

If the PCs save Cheremanthos but do not capture Lord Calic, the lame merchant will hire the party to track down the exiled lord and present him to Lord Zerin so that Lord Calic may be killed for returning from exile.

If the PCs fail to save Cheremanthos, they will find the local Thieves' Guild very helpful in trying to track down the merchant, as he has become a valuable ally to the current Guildmaster. They will likely also discover that Cheremanthos has some form of control over the liege's future son-in-law, Lord Zerin.

In all cases, this plot ends after the wedding ceremony is concluded, whether Lord Calic was successful or not in interrupting it.

Complications: Depending on where the party places their allegiance, there are a number of complications that could arise.

* Thieves' Guild: The local Thieves' Guild has a vested interest in seeing Lord Zerin marry Lady Sandremona, and protecting Cheremanthos, due to his influence over Lord Zerin.
* Lord Zerin: As the future son-in-law of the liege, Lord Zerin has a lot of political clout. He wants to see Cheremanthos dealt with, if it can be done safely, and wants no interruptions of the wedding ceremony.
* Lord Calic: Fanatically driven by his devotion to Lady Sandremona, he will stop at nothing to prevent her from becoming Lord Zerin's wife. Unless he is on a full tilt course in pursuit of that goal, he will work against whatever may be hindering him.

Rewards: Depending on who they are working for and who they appease, the party may find themselves earning any of a variety of rewards. If they aid the victor of this bizarre contest for Lady Sandremona's hand, they will likely earn the grudging approval of the liege, as well as the victor. If the party is known to have aided Cheremanthos's goals at his behest or in his name, they will earn the favor of the local Thieves' Guild as well. Lady Sandremona and Lord Calic will be forever in the party's debt should they prove Calic's innocence, allowing him to regain his lost lands, his family's wealth, and the hand of his lady love.

If, however, the party decides to back a losing party to these unusual circumstances, likely they will find themselves without pay and with a sudden need to leave town quickly and not return. Should they hinder the progress of the local Thieves' Guild, they may gain the Thieves' Guild as an enemy for any future efforts attempted within the city.

Please let me know your thoughts on the above. What did you like from the above example? What did you not like? How can I make this better?

With Regards,

Friday, October 29, 2010

Genre Talk: Gaming and Planetary Romance...

Good Evening, All:

I have to admit that my favorite literary genre is Planetary Romance, and sadly, there are very few games that build on that genre. Certainly, Adamant came out with their Mars setting, first under D20 Modern and then re-released under Savage Worlds. Bad Axe Games released Slavelords of Cydonia, the only Planetary Romance campaign I've ever seen under their fantastic Grim Tales rules set. (It'll take you from 1st to 20th level and never let up on the pulse-pounding Sword & Planet excitement.) Last year (or was it early this year?), I picked up Savage Swords of Athanor, another excellent Planetary Romance setting for the Swords & Wizardry game. Iron Lords of Jupiter was an awesome mini-game in the old Polyhedron magazine. I think there were a few other minor efforts, but as a whole, my favorite genre is sorely lacking in gaming love. Let's face it; if I can only name less than five great products for the genre in almost forty years of gaming history, it's a genre that is not very well represented.

Now, there are a few products that are supposed to be released soon that will help fill that void. Warriors of the Red Planet is a Planetary Romance setting using an Old School engine. Chaosium's BRP Interplanetary has been in development for over three years now, but supposedly the author gave the final manuscript to the publisher at the end of June this year. Hollow Earth Expedition is going to release Revelations of Mars, their own contribution to the planetary romance genre, in 2011. I'm definitely looking forward to these releases, and these companies will find an enthusiastic buyer in this Sword & Planet fan.

Are any of the readers of this blog fans of the Planetary Romance genre? If so, please feel free to post a comment in the blogs and share some of your thoughts on roleplaying in this genre.

With Regards,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GM Mentoring: The Three Element Rule of World Design...

Good Evening, All:

In tonight's game, we moved from the end of one adventure to the site where the next one began, covering several days of travel and a stop at Fellgorge, the City of Adventurers and effectively the Las Vegas of the Madlands Campaign. Everything can be had for the right price. Tonight, I also introduced a new player to the group, who had come to fill an empty chair. In covering his introduction to the group, and moving them along into Fellgorge and beyond to the site of the Black Tower of Father Gaelos, I realized how deep a setting I had created already in less than ten sessions of play. The old players were filling in the new guy on the local customs, some of the stories they'd heard, making some connections with this session's events and some events in previous sessions, and all in all, making me feel much more accomplished as a world designer and Game Master than I had felt going into tonight's session.

Sometimes I surprise myself. Without overly trying, I realize that, at least to this group, I've successfully created and presented a consistent world, and will continue to build on it and add depth to it as we move along in future sessions. I have been developing these skills now for over twenty years, and it is good to see them attain this degree of success without significant effort. I feel that I owe this success to the many DMs and GMs I've gamed with, talked to and read about. There are a great many tips and tricks I've picked up over the years, and I'll try to share them as I continue to blog here.

I think one of the easiest ways to create new locations is to choose three major elements that make the area unique in comparison to other regions, and bring those up during play. Three items allows you to focus on a little diversity, yet still hold these elements firmly in play. As the players pick up on those characteristics, they begin to identify individual locations by their flavor. In time, both you and they will start to expound on the foundation you've laid out, but the region will maintain its consistent look and feel as you go along.

For example, the three elements I have focused on for Fellgorge are:
  1. Guilds control everything. Each major occupation thus has at least one organization dedicated to protecting their business. I can explain any rivalries as being between guilds, or perhaps between guilds and those who violate the guild law. Guilds become patrons for adventures, rivals or enemies for character backgrounds, and can serve as fodder for non-combat encounters that build on the flavor of the city.
  2. Fellgorge is a fantasy version of Las Vegas. Lacking only the neon signs, this city of sin offers adventurers many different ways to separate themselves from their coinage while experiencing any of a great number of vices and other forms of entertainment. There's a strong seedy side to Fellgorge, and as adventurers, the party often sees it, even more so than the average bloke.
  3. Fellgorge is a melting pot. When adventurers from all of the lands north of the Sovereign Chasm come to cross via the Sky Ferry into the Madlands and seek their fortune, you'll find characters of a wide range of races and abilities, more than in any other city in the campaign. It's a great place to introduce new characters into the group, and this melting pot offers a wide variety of rumors, employment opportunities and adventure hooks simply by virtue of the wide range of humanoid character types present within the walls of the city.

By focusing on just those three elements, I can create the illusion of depth for my players. With their own internal associations regarding guilds, Las Vegas and melting pot cities, I find that the players often fill in the gaps with self-imposed assumptions. As they communicate those assumptions through their words and choices over the course of the game, I find that I can either take the suggestion and run with it, or offer a clarified perspective for the player, helping in turn to sharpen the picture for both of us. This works very well with my ad hoc gaming style.

So, how do you make new locations come alive? What suggestions do you have to offer your peers and fellow readers? Inquiring minds want to know.

With Regards,

Monday, October 25, 2010

GM Mentoring: New Campaigns Demand New Stories...

Good Evening:

Sometimes, when you want to come up with a new idea for an adventure or a campaign story arc, you find yourself locked into the same story lines you've been repeating for the last few years (or even decades). You look back at those scenarios that have effectively become cliches to your gaming group, and want to relive the cherished memories you created or desire to capture some element of a scenario that eluded you every time you implemented that storyline before. Whatever attracted you to a given storyline held some importance to you, and there's a good chance that it still does, if you can't get it out of your head.

However, let's face it, if you've tried it more than once, or if your first run of a given storyline was an outstanding success, the kind that's talked about months and even years afterward, then your players are likely to be ready for this scenario. Chances are, they will not react as openly to a repeat performance. In order to continue to build on your already solid reputation, you have to step up your game, so to speak. There's nothing like an original idea to help keep things fresh.

So, what do you do when the ideas don't come? You can always check out Eureka, the book of plot summaries by the crew from Gnome Stew. You can also read through old Dragon and Dungeon magazines, or review old D&D modules (or even new D&D modules) looking for adventure ideas that are new to you but still sound like fun to run. You can read some fantasy fiction (or even better, some non-fantasy fiction) and adopt the plot from the book as an adventure or campaign story arc. Watch the news, and translate each news story into a plot. Think about your two favorite television episodes you watched this last week, and see if you can blend elements of the plots of the two episodes together to come up with something that is new and definitely yours. Think about your favorite movie, or at least a movie you know very well, and translate that into a campaign storyline for your party's future adventures. (I think Star Wars: A New Hope would make a great swashbuckling adventure.) Build a random table or two, and see what comes of that.

There are always means to move beyond the cliches that maintain their grip on you. While the suggestions given above offer a number of options for you, don't be afraid to try other things as well. You never know when the next great adventure idea will come to you, nor how you'll end up getting it. If you have any suggestions on other avenues one could pursue, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

With Regards,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Random Chart: Quick Greek Name Generator...

Good Morning, All:

Here's another random chart, this time to allow for quick Greek Name generation. Given that Achea from the World Within setting is based on ancient Greece, I thought it would prove helpful to have a random name generator for characters and NPCs. I'm sure this random chart will have use beyond just the Hollow Earth campaign, as Greek character names are very popular in many settings, particularly for spellcasters.

Using this chart is pretty easy. You simply roll once on the Prefix table and once on the Suffix table, putting the results together to make the character's name. The Prefix and Suffix tables are both d66 tables. Those familiar with this blog already know how to create a d66 roll. For those that aren't, roll two d6s and read them similar to percentile dice. The first d6 represents the tens digit, and the second d6 represents the ones digit. For example, rolling a 2 on the first d6 and a 6 on the second d6 would create a result of 26.

So, by way of demonstration, let's create a random Greek Name. I make two d66 rolls, which are, in this example, 26 followed by 56. That gives us a prefix of "Char" and a suffix of "onius", or the name Charonius. Not bad.

This table was generated by parsing a list of Greek names pulled from various Wikipedia articles on Ancient Greeks, and pairing down the resulting list of prefixes and suffixes by frequency and by flavor to arrive at the 36 best choices for each.

Table: Greek Name Prefix

Table: Greek Name Suffix

With Regards,

Friday, October 22, 2010

The World Within: Armor In An Iron Age...

Good Evening, All:

While looking over possible armor types for an Iron Age setting, I realized that this many of the common armor types for the time period are actually separate pieces that are worn together in different arrangements, depending on your region and training. That may not lend itself well to the usual approach for defining armor, but I think it would be a great opportunity to explore piecemeal armor, a concept introduced in AD&D Second Edition. In essence, each component of armor (torso, arms and legs) adds an AC Bonus to the character's unarmored AC value. Since MyD20 Lite uses Ascending Armor Class, it is actually easier to determine the character's final AC value with piecemeal armor by adding up the bonuses for each component. For those that would use the information with Descending Armor Class, simply determine the final AC by subtracting the total from 10. I've captured the basic available pieces in the table below. Please check it out and tell me what you think.

Table: Available Armor - Iron Age
ArmorAC BonusTypeWeightNotes
Barding, leather+2Light20Covers the torso of a large mount
Bracers, iron+1Light10Covers the arms
Breastplate, iron+4Light20Covers the torso
Greaves, iron+2Light10Covers the legs
Greaves, leather+1Light5Covers the legs
Leather jerkin+2Light10Covers the arms and torso
Padded/quilted jerkin+1Light5Covers the arms and torso
Shield, large+2Light5Cannot hold anything else in shield hand
Shield, small+1Light5Can hold a small object in shield hand
Studded leather jerkin+3Light15Covers the arms and torso

Note: When the combined weight of a character's armor exceeds 30 pounds, the armor is then considered to be Heavy. In addition, when using piecemeal armor, only the highest AC Bonus for a given body location counts towards the character's Armor Class.

With Regards,