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1  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Re: Some Hex Cityscapes on: July 28, 2018, 09:37:10 PM
Dude keep it up, I love all of this.  I was actually thinking about how cool of an idea Genial Jack is the other day, and how I might use him in a future game.
2  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Re: What's going on? on: July 28, 2018, 09:31:15 PM

Kalos Mer

Well blow me down, I can't believe this place still exists!  I was just searching for some old Tasothilos-related material on a google search and up popped a link to the CBG.  I'm absolutely delighted.

I was I believe member #3 or #4 back in 2006 but vanished in late 2007.  Undergrad was a rough time for me, and I started and abandoned far for projects than I care to remember.  (And ugh looking back at some of my posts from that era... I was more than a bit of a know-it-all prat.)

In the past 10 years, I've more or less given up gaming - I was for much of my 20s a serial starter of games that fizzled after two sessions, and finally figured out it was because although system design was interesting to me, and setting design likewise, "playing" was as much a chore as a pleasure.  But I still casually pick away at Tasothilos, the setting which you can find way-way-way back on the board here, and I've lately been toying with the idea of a novel.

In the personal sphere, I'm getting married in a month, and four years deep in a doctoral program in late antique Christianity  (prospectus is being written.)  Not exactly where I saw myself being when last I posted here in (eek!) 2007, but it's been good.
kaloooooooooooos
I've missed you, brother
3  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Re: What's going on? on: May 02, 2018, 08:10:09 AM
I guess it's unfair to solicit information without reciprocating.

I'm finishing up my second year of law school (one more to go!).  My wife gave birth to my daughter about a month and a half ago.  Also, I just started a new job - so I've been super, super busy, as you can imagine.

Gamewise, I've been able to run a series of one-shot games over the last few years between semesters, which has sort of coalesced into a loosely connected campaign.  To keep things simple, I built out a microsetting called the "Empire of Sorrows," centered on a Melnibone-esque civilization called Gran Desaar.  It's all a lot of flash and style-over-substance, but they're newbies so they don't know any better.

I have also intermittently continued the endless 7-year project that is the novel I will never complete, set in the Red Valor universe.  At this rate I might be on the second book by the time my daughter goes to college.

So that's me!
4  The Works / The Dragon's Den / What's going on? on: May 01, 2018, 01:54:03 PM
It's been slow here.  I see you dudes and dudettes lurking, so I know you know - and I want you to know I know that you know.  Or whatever.

What's everyone up to?  I know we're all super busy; I'm genuinely curious.  What's going on in your life?  What writing and gaming projects are you working on?  How are you and your kinfolk?
5  The Works / The Crossroads / Lamentation on: May 01, 2018, 10:59:17 AM
Beware that cousin death, who makes himself a stranger until he needs of you—his tidings never welcome, his presence tolerated only out of courtesy.  Where once his visits inconvenienced me, I now watch closely for his shadow

My daughter takes her first breath.  And then, she screams – the aches of bones and blood, the cold terror of the world, the razor-light flourescence – how she must long for the comforts of her kingdom long abandoned

I am here, in the bones of the leviathan – the empire of my own making – until the sands sweep over my creation – I dig and dig and dig, for this mighty beast was once my craft – oh, to be a god again, immortal, all-consuming, all-creating, who with snap of finger can reorder worlds themselves—

My daughter takes her first breath.  And then, I scream – I fear – I dread – I dared to hope, my hope turned sour like the breath of wine-drunk lingerers who creep across the floor – I have no armor, no sword, no army, no power to protect her – when all the world is swords and slashing, how to raise her righteously?

Sister Sorrow grey-streaked dreaming dancing under eyelids of almighties – she with widow-peaks visits only offers when cracks of tombs have relinquished her, have revenged themselves upon her spirit—she knows I am not real; she knows I am not sorry; she knows I am not here

My daughter takes her first breath.  How can this be?  What father proceeds from fatherlessness?  The coward’s blood runs in my veins; and so it must in hers.  What if I, like he, am hollow – what if I, like he, would run? What chaos bubbles inside me?  What marks has that claw left?  What wounds?  What weapons?

Why has my father forsaken me?  Do I bear the stain of his curse?

A crack of black lightning as I splay myself again – manufacture the next model of my mask – and know that life itself is fleeting – the dim candle in the unlit vault – our life a pyre, a signal-beam by which our children light their way – how I long to be a forest fire

Life presents itself – and so I wear its raiments, I sing its hymns, I pray to empty altars – and I fix my mask onto my broken clockwork.  For must we not be who we should, and not who we are?

I hold my daughter in my arms – joyful and afraid – and limp toward the answer
6  Campaign Creation / Meta / Re: Beware the Pigaloth on: March 26, 2018, 09:33:58 AM
Personally, I'm terrified of the "Spectral Woof Greepy." 
7  Campaign Creation / Meta / Beware the Pigaloth on: March 26, 2018, 08:24:20 AM

The Rime of the Great Space Pat

Beware the Pigaloth, child
And mind the wereladoo-
For e'en Kurt walks free of chains
Beneath the Sun of Fish.


Here's an interesting article about using a neural network to generate D&D monster names.

Pretty much all of the monsters are amazing.  From the list:

  • Owlborn
  • Ogre, Space
  • Dragon, Curple Lard
  • Durp Snake
  • Cat, Stone
  • Hatfright
  • Purple Bird
  • Cloud of Chaos
  • Mommy, Greater
  • Dwarf, Giant
  • Burglestar
  • Kurt
  • Fish, Sun of
  • Memeball

I want to stat out literally every monster on this list.
8  The Works / The Crossroads / HYPERTHOUGHT TRIPOUT on: October 09, 2017, 06:36:33 PM
ONE.

The searing cyan spotlights of seven ScyWay drones cut through the violet haze of the Dullframe district of Complex Nineteen.  The Complex was a designated virtual sanitary zone and the movements of disposal units were heavily regulated.  The ScyWay drones roared along the skylanes, probing for an illicit heartbeat.

Camber watched the wasp-shaped drones from behind the crumbling brick of the old MicroTronix building. The hypercarbon façade was riddled with holograffiti.  Nanopaint swirled with metatags and neoprofanity, gibberish words that had no meaning when sober.  

Like all Citizens, Camber was hairless and gaunt, a pallid narrow thing wrapped in a sexless yellow jumpsuit.  Unlike other Citizens, however, Camber’s eyes were open.  Camber’s mind could see the body that encased it; the mesh of flesh, organs, wires, pipes and circuits, capped on either end by an organic neck and a featureless cybernetic pelvis.  It was plausible that Camber’s body had once belonged to a woman, but to whatever extent Camber was human at all, the thought of femininity was alien to the conscious body.  Camber was a xenoform, and xe was still acclimating to xyr precarious situation.

The trouble had all begun two point six-three cycles ago when Camber’s ScyWay visor had shattered.  The first weeks were a nightmare, when the metamescalux still coursed through Camber’s veins.  The towering megascrapers and the ScyWay drones and the enforcement borgs were nauseating, but once the drugs and feedback had faded, Camber came to accept reality.

Not that the unreality of Wonderworld was without its perverse pleasures.  Under the visor, Camber had power, serving as a media exarch with full access to content controls on a metric-rich data distribution channel and a daily uplink to retroform subscribers.  Compared to the uniform grey-black structures of Complex Nineteen, Wonderworld was full of vivid stimuli, constantly whirling and refreshing to occupy the Citizens.  In the hyperstream, a smell or sound or taste could invert and reverse and reverberate so many times, bouncing along the synapses until hybrid inspiration thought-matter superseded over-sensation spindling the surface-system-symbol-spendspiralsplurgespecsuperseverance;

Camber doubled over in pain. The metamescalux was gone but the pangs of hyperthought resurfaced from time to time, snaking around xyr mind like a tentacle.  Hyperthought was lethal in large doses without the lux.  

The drones had moved on – Camber wheezed with relief.  But as Camber stood, a black metallic hand gripped xyr forearm.   Wide-bodied, three metres tall, and six-armed, a Protector androform stood over xyr.  Its two crimson eyes scanned Camber’s vitals.  Its voice was hollow and joyless. “Halt, Citizen. Sanitation imminent.”

Camber jerked xyr arm out of its grip.  “You’re not funny, Dandy.”

The androform cocked its head to the side. “Humor: loading.” It gave a nod.  “Insufficient data.  Playback: I should throw you into the junkyard, you sack of bolts.  Response: Why?  Playback: It is a joke, Dandy. Meant to be funny.  Analysis: >First tree: Some things are funny.  All things which are funny are also humorous.  Humor may consist of things not funny.  Funny is contextual.  Funny is subjective.  Funny is irrational.  >Second tree: Humans have emotions.  Emotions are chemical reactions to stimuli.  Perception of danger is a stimulus.  Humor exists to alter severity or balance of emotions.  Synthesis:  Funny is an appropriate response to danger.  Subjective context rule requires humor to relate to immediate dangers.  Conclusion: When danger is present, threat of destruction is funny.”

“This is why you aren’t funny,” Camber whispered.  “Now keep your voice down and help me up.”

Dandy lifted xyr onto xyr feet.  “Query: What is the mission?”

Camber dusted xyrself off.  “The mission is the same as always.  We get free.”

Dandy crossed two of its upper arms and put its two lowest hands on its hips.  “Correction: That is an objective.  Updated query: What is the plan to achieve this objective?”

 “Easy.”  Camber opened xyr pelvic storage compartment and retrieved the source of xyr most recent trouble: a ScyWay Diagnostics Toolkit, which was little more than a small silver cylinder capped with a glowing red sensor.  “We’re going to the relay station.  And then we’re going to blow it up.“

The lenses to Dandy’s visual receivers widened.  “Proclamation: Oh dear.”

Camber grinned xyr yellow-green grin.  “Now let’s get moving before the drones get back and turn you into a pile of scrap metal.”

Dandy wrapped its six arms around Camber as its hands converted to hoverwheels.  “Query: Oh, was that supposed to be funny?”

As they lifted into the air, Camber noted the unusual ping in Dandy’s inflection and wondered – not for the first time – if the damn thing had feelings after all.
9  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: [PBP] Kingless Countries - WIP (Players wanted) on: September 19, 2017, 04:08:06 PM
The yearlong lapse aside, I have the time to actually execute this now.  Currently gauging interest (for real this time) and polishing the mechanics - expect edits to the first few pages.
10  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Re: Midjan-Kar: The In-Between on: September 13, 2017, 12:24:15 PM
AVIA SERENA – HISTORY, SOCIETY, & ECOLOGY

The Sky-City of Avia Serena is an airborne, mobile metropolis sharply divided along racial and ethnic lines.  A disc-shaped platform three miles in diameter serves as the base of the city, which sits atop a complex machine purported to house the great mechano-magical heart that propels Avia Serena skyward.  Dozens of crystalline palaces dot the landscape of the city, in between which are crowded the temples, bazaars, tenements, and fortifications which give the city its jammed, bustling rhythm.  Whether one ventures to the pensive estates of the Gaunt Lords or the crammed slums of the Bloodless, one constant remains: unfettered violence.

Avia Serena is divided by racial lines into a rigid caste-based structure.  The various castes are:

  • R'hrendaar - the "children of regal blood," the R'hrendaar are the pinnacle of society and consider themselves "pureblood" inheritors of an ancient royal lineage. (Comparable to High Elves)
  • A'tanhidaar - the "children of magisterial blood," the A'tanhidaar are the bureaucrats of Avia Serena, and consider its maintenance and progress their life's mission.  Although subservient to the R'hrendaar, they are nevertheless afforded a limited respect for their similar heritage. (Comparable to Gray Elves)
  • K'hlsaar - the "children of no blood," the K'hlsaar are physically indistinguishable from the R'hrendaar but cannot trace their bloodlines to their ancient civilization.  K'hlsaar are permitted to serve as soldiers and overseers, but may not own property or establish a house. (Comparable to Wood Elves)
  • K'hldymaar - the "children of tainted blood," also known as "half-breeds."  K'hldymaar are biologically half-R'hrendaar, but are afforded no social rank or status. (Comparable to Half-Elves)
  • Ren'taath - "not our children at all," these are the slaves and captives taken from the surface or bred in captivity.  Ren'taath is a term applied to not just one or species, but is a catch-all term for races of alien origin.  (Catch-all for all Non-Elves)

Part I: The Gaunt Lords

In the villa of Laulendar Es’denduenne, H’lentaar of the Sevaar Wing

Laulendar smirked. “We are most unlike the Under-Empire, little one.  The bottom-dwellers scurry through their filthy tunnels, scraping and kneeling, all to curry favor with their taskmasters.  And those masters serve their masters, who serve their own masters, and on and on, all in service of the dark mind of the Manifest Emperor.  It is a wretched hive, a tyranny of the spirit.  In Avia Serena, all are free beneath the unbounded sky.  Free to exercise their own pursuit – to contribute to the beauty of our city in their own way.”

“All are not free, Father,” Nespe spat. “Just you, and the other R’hrendaar.  The rest of us are slaves, no more free than the thralls of the Manifest Emperor.”

The smile fell from Laulendar’s lips. “You are possessed of two false notions unbecoming of your blood. First, that you are permitted to question a trueborn R’hrendaar.  You are not.  Second, that I am your father.  You are K’hldymaar. Under the laws of this city, you have no father.  Retrieve your broom and return to my garden, and thank your squalid god you are possessed of any rank at all, lest I submit to the rising temptation to slit your lying throat.”

A. The Gaunt Lords Cometh

The upper rank of metropolitan society is comprised of the R’hrendaar, known to surface-dwellers as the Gaunt Lords. To humans, the Gaunt Lords appear androgynous and are possessed of an eternal, otherworldly beauty.  

The R’hrendaar are pureborn scions of the royal blood of Allanelualume, the ancient land from which all elves hail.  In addition to serving as the attendants to the Qua-Sulveth, they are the only citizens of full rank under the laws of Avia Serena.  Only the R’hrendaar are permitted to own property (including bonded servants), and all R’hrendaar are military officers in the Sky Army.

When not engaged in the oversight of war efforts, the R’hrendaar delight themselves with sensual pleasures, and pride themselves on the sophistication of their culture. To the Gaunt Lords, nearly any act of the mind or body can be elevated by its artistry, and over their long lives, the R’hrendaar may master many disciplines, depending on the whims that overtake them for a given number of years.  Common pursuits include sex, poetry, killing, music, drugs, painting, torture, and pottery.  Above all, the R’hrendaar strive to become masters of the mind, body, and spirit - both their internal dominion and the external dominion over their lessers.

B.  Power and Privilege

The R’hrendaar alone rule the Sky-City, guided by their hidden god-monarch, the Qua-Sulveth.  The Gaunt Lords worship the Qua-Sulveth in secrecy, and are its sole priests and parishioners.  None of the other social orders know from what source the Elegant Laws of Avia Serena emanate, only that each R’hrendaar can recite these Laws without fail and without error.  It is unknown if the irregular and clandestine gathering of R’hrendaar known as the Ul’Saviante is a legislative assembly, a grand orgy, or perhaps both.

In times of war, which Avia Serena is nearly perpetually engaged in, the R’hrendaar are the commanders of the army and the majority ride flying war platforms, ranging in size from a single rider to a small squadron, into battle. The most elite of the R’hrendaar are known to ride chromatic dragons into battle.  In truth, the dragons are the only creatures the R’hrendaar regard as remotely equal to their sophistication and intelligence, and the dragons are afforded many of the same social privileges as the R’hrendaar.

C. Relations with the other races

Although several customs and restrictions exist delineating the ritual coupling of the R’hrendaar between one another, they are free to cavort with their social lessers in the frequency and fullness they see fit.  Children produced in these unions are ranked according to the status of a non-R'hrendaar parent.  As a consequence of the popularity among R'hrendaar for intra-social concourse, the R’hrendaar are by far the minority in Avia Serena, as people of mixed heritage greatly outnumber the Gaunt Lords.  However, the Gaunt Lords have through the centuries been careful not to dilute their supremacy over Avia Serena, and thanks in part to their magic, their dragons, and their study of warfare, the R’hrendaar have maintained their rule despite frequent – and large-scale – uprisings and invasions.

D. Gameplay

Playing a R'hrendal

Physical Description:  R’hrendaar are renowned for their emaciated appearance, earning them the nickname “the Gaunt Lords.”  Both males and females tend to have lithe, narrow frames.  Skin tones ranged from a sickly yellow to bleach-white.  Hair color tends to be black, glossy white, or pale yellow.  A R’hrendal's eyes are striking, often in vivid colors such as burning crimson, bright yellow, or deep purple.  The rarest and most revered of R'hrendaar, those who have bonded with a dragon, typically have eyes that match the color of their dragon.

R'hrendaar Names  
R’hrendaar are considered children until they are anointed by the Qua-Sulveth, sometime after their seventy-fifth birthday, and before this period they are called by juvenile names.

On their anointment, a R’hrendal selects an adult name, although fellow R’hrendaar who knew him as a youngster might continue to use the juvenile name.  Each R’hrendal’s adult name is a unique creation, though it might reflect the names of respected individuals or other family members.  Little distinction exists between male names and female names; the examples below are used by either.  In addition, every R’hrendal bears a Lineage name, which is a combination of their maternal and paternal Lineage names.  

Child names:  Artois, Ala, Bazhai, Colva, Delph, Eile, Fylet, Imma, Ilmyr, Limbilit, Nespe, Raen, Rezhe, Syrmel, Tyan, Uldo, Vende, and Zell.

Adult Names:  Aldanor, Alluluzia, Belzherie, Corlindai, Calliana, Delezhan, Eleuthenier, Elenaleurel,  Gaustelliaeunt, Laulendar, Mendelvien, Noemindel, Quilluin, R’hmendar, Sesteryean, Violovares, Zhelban.

Maternal Lineage Prefix:  Abyl-, Ada'la-, Aleur-, Ba'eli-, Beh'da-, Cel'yci-, Cu'arvo-, Del'lit-, Durma'al-, Es'den-, Eulleu-, Eyriea-, Feus'ilia-, Fleura-, Gestillie-, Heule'iur-, Lilli-, Lu'nereio-, Messili-, Mult'da-, Neu'ea-, Qavi-, Re'inze-, Sasseau-, Se'nlis-, Sua-, Tien'ti-, To'opho-, Undu'ili-, Ven'dere-, Yv'etrio-.

Paternal Lineage Suffix: -abynian, -adarro, aleuse, -baedred, bedaal, celicym, curovaath, -delt, -duenne, -durym, -eleux, -eyrit, -feusse, -fel, -gezim, -haad, -lect, -luan, -mem, -myaar, -nezari, -qadim, -rezyid, -sosse, -syd, -syundaar, -tych, -tophaad, -und, -viendi, -yvaal.

R’hrendaar Traits
Ability Score Increase.  Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Age.  Although R’hrendaar reach physical maturity at about the same age as humans, their understanding of adulthood goes beyond physical growth to encompass worldly experience.  R’hrendaar typically claim adulthood and an adult name around the age of 100 and can live to be 750 years old.

Size.  R’hrendaar range from under 5 to over 6 feet tall and have slender builds.  Your size is Medium.

Speed.  Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision .  You have superior vision in dark and dim Conditions.  You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in Darkness as if it were dim light.  You can’t discern color In Darkness, only shades of gray.  

Superior Senses.  You gain proficiency in the Perception skill.  

Regal Ancestry.  You have advantage on saving throws against being Charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.

Trance.  R’hrendaar don’t need to sleep.  Instead, they meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious, for 4 hours a day.  While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice.  After Resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Languages.  You can speak, read, and write Common and R’hrellesi.  R’hrellesi is fluid, with subtle intonations and intricate grammar.  R’hrellesi literature is rich and varied, and their songs and poems are famous among other races.  Many bards learn their Language so they can add R’hrellesi ballads to their repertoires.  

R’hrendaar Weapon Training.  You have proficiency with the Longsword, Shortsword, Shortbow, and Longbow.  

Elegant Blast.  You know the firebolt cantrip.  Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for this cantrip.
11  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Re: Midjan-Kar: The In-Between on: September 13, 2017, 11:14:21 AM

Ghostman

That's very cool! I like how strongly focused this setting looks.

Steerpike

I'm really into all of this. Those are excellent names. The Scabbed Prince? That's very good. You could run a whole campaign in the Temple of Solviqa’ad.

I'm really into settings with a vertical dimension, too. You mentioned this is a 5th edition setting. Are you using the core races or homebrewing new ones?

Thank you both for the kind words. As of this writing, focusing on the core races, but with sharp deviations/permutations from their "base setting" fluff.  The idea is to supplement the above locales with additional, inclusive "micro-settings" - megadungeons and regions which could serve as the anchor for multiple games or even a full campaign, but remain thematically cohesive with the tone of the setting.

My initial write-up of Avia Serena is forthcoming.
12  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Midjan-Kar: The In-Between on: September 11, 2017, 04:00:09 PM

Baba Yrig, by the hearth

Yes, I remember, child.  I remember the day the Sky-Shadow last fell upon our village.  All too well, I remember the screech of the birdmen and the heat of the dragonflames.  I remember the pale faces of the Gaunt Lords, peering from above their floating war platforms.  I remember, too, the cold precision of their assault.  The elegance – the artistry – of their destruction.

I remember it most of all because it was the day they took my sister, and the day they left me in the ashes.  Should I envy her, to be carried on high to the flying city of Avia Serena?  Or should I pity her, to have been taken by these horrible creatures?


MIDJAN-KAR: THE IN-BETWEEN

Midjan-Kar is a campaign setting designed for use with the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

The world of Aldranar is shaped by the perpetual conflict between two great civilizations: the flying city of Avia Serena and the Under-Empire of Rul-Dugaath.  Caught in the middle are the people of Midjan-Kar, who eke out a meager existence in small pockets on the surface, which they call the In-Between.  Raids from both above and below have shattered ancient political orders, and humanity struggles among the remnants of its old empires.

Stories may be set in the Sky-City Above, the Under-Empire Below, or the desolate reaches In-Between.

Primary conflicts

A state of danger.  The people of the In-Between are caught in the crossfire of two ancient enemies, the Gaunt Lords above and the Manifest Emperor below.  Raids and attacks are commonplace, and the landscape of the In-Between is riddled with the remnants of this ancient feud.

Power lurks in strange places.  After countless years and endless conflict, ranging from the regular small skirmishes to full-scale battles and raids, the In-Between is home to ruins and relics, as are its neighbors above and below.

Food and water.  Both Rul-Dugaath and Avia Serena rely to some degree on the people of the In-Between for fresh supplies and crops, which is the only reason humanity survives at all.  Neither the Hanging Gardens of Avia Serena nor the Mushroom Forest of Rul-Dugaath can feed all their citizens, servants, and slaves.  

Sacrifices must be made.  The raiders of Avia Serena and the slavers of Rul-Dugaath regularly abduct surface-dwellers for their own purposes.  It is said that the beauty of Avia Serena is sustained by its young and lithe captives, while Rul-Dugaath utilizes surface-dwellers for hard labor - and as fodder for its dark rituals.

Cities and Sites

The Sky-City of Avia Serena: Above. A massive, floating fortification three miles wide, propelled by some unknown magic or mechanism.  Wreathed in a veil of crackling violet clouds, survivors who have escaped the Sky-City tell of its vast crystal palaces, its capricious aristocrats, and the insatiable appetites of the Qua-Sulveth, its rarely seen (and terribly monstrous) overlord.

Urlda-Murgant: Below.  The capital of the Under-Empire and the seat of the Manifest Emperor, Urlda-Murgant is situated at the center of a vast network of caves.  Its name in the dueghaza means “the Auspicious Shadow,” and it is the political and commercial center of Rul-Dugaath. The Black Crystal Throne, upon which the Manifest Emperor plucks the world-strings of the Harp of Fate, sits at the bottom of its center-most pit, the Tenebrous Vault.

The Temple of Solviqa’ad: In-Between. A megalithic structure built by the Shadow Pharaohs of antiquity in reverence to Solviqa’ad, the Scabbed Prince.  Its reliquaries and tombs are filled with ancient weapons – and with ancient horrors.  Nevertheless, seven great tribes of humans banded together a century ago and live now within its walls – building, exploring, and unburying its many secrets.

The Village of Hemling: In-Between.  Nestled in the Fertile Swath of the Indyrian Peninsula, the people of Hemling swore their allegiance to the Manifest Emperor a century ago.  In return for protection from the sky-soldiers of Avia Serena, the fishmongers of Avia Serena became fishers of a different sort, and now use their nets to sell their brethren in the auction-houses Below, from Smalgan-Gerault to Urlda-Murgant.

The Hidden City of Tsao Zhing: Above, Below, and In-Between.  The last great metropolis of the In-Between, Tsao Zhing was built on the orders of the Red Emperor, the last ruler of a vast surface polity known as the Celestial Empire.  The Red Emperor had a prophetic dream that the Eternal War would lay waste to his empire and ordered his bewildered people to erect a fortification that defended all directions – above, beside, and below.  When viewed from any direction, it appears as a dome or a dome in reverse.  Its walls have only been breached once, due to treachery by its magistrates intent on ousting the Emperor.  The Hidden City has subsequently been ruled by a succession of competing warlords.

The Sorrow of Saint Salvina: In-Between.  The Sorrow is a spike-laden castle located in the Unseen Reaches, perpetually hidden behind the Unyielding Fog, a shroud of supposedly mystic nature.  Although built by an ancient tribe of grimlocks to protect themselves from the Eternal War, a crusading order of paladins now uses it as its base, riding their pegasi above and giant spiders below.

The Spawn-pits of Gar-Gulthet: Below. A deep chasm beneath the Eldarian Wastes.  The only known breeding ground for netherlings, the sightless, winged steeds upon which the forces of the Under-Empire fly.
13  Campaign Creation / Meta / Re: What are the hallmarks of a good villain? on: May 12, 2017, 11:31:34 AM
I've spent a decade and a half retooling my main setting and folks seem to enjoy it when they play it, so I'm gonna have to agree with Sparkle.

I let 'em do what they want in the sandbox and I have no issues if they kill major NPCs, etc.  The key is separating what's on paper with the functioning, living world of the game - to the extent that the players' actions deviate and change the game world in interesting ways, you can either incorporate them into future games or decide they're not "canon," but within the operating framework of the game-at-hand just don't get too tied down to your own preconceived notion of how specific things should go down.

Balancing structure and plotting against player freedom is, I think, the mysterious formula we're all constantly divining.  Since we're the kind of folks who post in a place like this, we tend to put a decent amount of thought into our games.  My personal belief is that the key to it all  is not super-mysterious.  A good DM should give his players enough threads to pursue a number of general possibilities, but with obvious markers toward intended quests, dungeons, plots, etc., but should never force their hand to do that specific thing, nor to do any particular thing in any particular way.   I've had games where I've failed on one end of this or the other - I constricted freedom, creativity, or collaborative roleplaying in a way that in retrospect I shouldn't have, and I've given too few hints of what the "purpose" of a particular session was and players were left somewhat aimless and drifting.

The other key element is to know your players and their expectations going in, and to tailor the degree of "freedom" versus pre-scripting experience based upon what they have the most fun with, what their experience level is, and what the game mechanics lend themselves toward.

But that's just me.


Edited to add: And for the main topic - a good villain should be COOL.  Sweet armor, distinctive weapon, badass name - you get the idea.
14  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Re: I own a Nintendo Switch (AMA) on: March 27, 2017, 06:49:38 PM
Q: How the heck did you get one? I've been pining for one since launch.
15  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Aethernet on: March 22, 2017, 09:43:48 AM
Spitballing:

LoA

Also we have been having discussions about anti-magic fields. How could the Americans keep divination wizards from scrying on key military intelligence such as radio towers, and railroad pathways.

Is this D&D? If so, which edition?  If 3.5e, non-detection is a start, but I could see setting up some kind of "trade secret"/"national security" ritual equivalent that extends over larger sensitive areas.  Also, I'm not 100% sure on this, but isn't lead scry-proof? (I may be misremembering that).  Perhaps a non-poisonous lead-based alloy could be used to line things like railway cars or sensitive military targets.

The thing I like about non-detection is that it's a DC-based issue, which means a skilled enough "hacker" could still spy, leading to the need for counter-measures to detect scrying for some black hat, white hat hacking back-and-forth.  I'm always more of a fan of "skill vs. skill" rather than outright nullification, since it creates locked doors rather than brick walls. (As a former high-level wizard, however, brick walls are merely a target of a different spell - disintegrate is such fun.)

(In 3.5e, I believe the Trickery cleric domain grants access to non-detection, so priests of some gilded baron god of non-disclosure agreements could potentially be involved in the daily rituals and castings).

I think some kind of ritual or large-scale casting mechanic would be necessary to make these kinds of things feasible, and thematically fits with the notion that the combined product of an industry (in this case, magic-users) is greater than the sum of its parts, and there can be some additional tension between magic-users and those who own the means of production.  (Headline: Wizards Go On Strike! Will Gov't Respond?)
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