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The child of everything and nothing June 25, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Player Characters.
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As I write more of the current adventures, I have mentioned two new characters, Mahdi and Osiris, which I have never described.  I had hoped to write the old adventures up and introduce these characters when they arrived, but I’m not sure that day’s ever going to come, so I’m going to describe them now.


(Note:  My descriptions here will be about both the character and player, because you cannot separate the two.  Thus, some of what I write may seem harsh or critical.)

Bret, who played Brother Steplan, was the first player to leave the game.  While the party was in Fin Quil, Steplan decided that the adventuring life wasn’t for him, and he decided to establish a magic item creation business in Fin Quil.  Thus, we needed a new cleric.

Little Eleanor was born in Valuria, to a mother who died in childbirth and a father who died while hunting during the first year of her life.  Her only other relative, her father’s sister, promptly left the child on the doorstep of a monastery.  There, she lived, until the age of five, when the monastery was burned down by “large men on horses,” as she recalls.  Led through the woods with the other children to another monastery, she lived there until the age of nine.  Her aunt (or so she called herself; Osiris is unsure now if this woman was actually her aunt) joined the monastery and found her there, and told the child of her parents and their fate.  Then, one spring day, while playing outside the monastery walls, she heard screams.  She ran into the woods outside the monastery, and from there could men on horses, setting fire to the monastery and killing all the people she knew, including the children and her aunt. 

The next morning, she was found, cold and starving, by a ranger named Aaron, who took her in, taking care of her while teaching her to survive, hunt small game, and ride horses.  They travelled to the Seldaya Wood, near Tallidon, where he lived.  He never learned her name, and called her Tash.

When Tash turned twelve, Aaron took her to another monastery, feeling that she needed more education than he could give.  She prompty ran away, but Aaron tracked her down and took her to a monastery in Valuria.  She realized that he was gone for good and that she would have to stay and learn.  But, before she became ordained as a cleric, an accidental fire in the monastery set off waves of terror in her heart and she fled.  She found safe passage to Talnoor and became involved in a cult of death, feeling that for once, she would be on the other side of the mayhem and terror.

Her final rite of passage to become ordained as a cleric of death was to kill someone in cold blood.  Though she would never know the name of the man she killed, the act was enough to convince her that this wasn’t what she wanted, and she left without completing the rite. 

Taking what money she had, she traveled north.  In meditation, she realized that her path was not to follow one ideal, but all ideals in balance, and within that idea, she sensed her own path to divinity.  Taking the name Isis, though telling all others that her name is Osiris, she began to follow the path of learning of all the gods and worshipping them all.

In her travels, she was abducted by a cult of blood, who wished to sacrifice her.  A group of paladins saved her just in time, and she spent some time with them, falling in love with one of the paladins, who later was killed during the last battle with the cult of blood.  She, however, realized that as a traveler, her small, dainty stature was a liability, and obtained a hat of disguise and a war horse, to appear as a tall knight in plate armor.

Asia’s intent was to play her as a brooding, meditating cleric, who speaks to all gods and seeks to become a god herself, but who also is haunted by her bloody past, and to some extent, he’s doing a pretty good job.  He had the party confused for quite a bit, as he would refer to different gods in different situations.  He also managed to give himself a personal goal that really had nothing to do with the party goal, so that saved me the hassle of doing so.

His one weakness in the way that he plays her is that he puts a bit too much of himself into the character.  Asia is a bit of a anti-government paranoid, and thus, so is Osiris, even though the character truly has no interest in or opinions about the current government.  Thus, Osiris makes a lot of decisions based on Asia’s belief that the government (not just the monarchy, but the local lords’ governments) are evil and corrupt.

Asia, however, found it difficult to justify his character staying in the party, since she’s following her own spiritual journey.  Thus, I gave her a revelation.  During meditation one day, she had a vision.  What she saw, she could only describe as a great wondrous orb, overseeing all of the world.  This orb was not smoothly round, but had an infinite number of facets, in each of which she could dimly see all of the different gods.  She began to realize that the gods are not separate individuals, but only facets of something greater, which she called the One.  The One watches but does little, but, in her dream, she realized that she was being asked to do something.  “The Prince must survive.”

At the time she had the dream, Osiris had barely any knowledge of the current politics, and certainly didn’t know that the real prince was one of her traveling companions.  But she realized that whatever the vision meant, she couldn’t do it by wandering randomly through the wilderness, and decided to stay with the party to learn more.

Osiris also has a recurring dream, the detail of which are hazy and change a bit each time, in which knights in black, silver, and gray are charging out of a fog, defending something.  She travels to find the meaning of the dream, which she thinks is that she is to found an order of knights to defend whatever it is.

One last note:  Asia is a very serious D&D player, which is good, considering that except for Robert, the rest of the party is not dedicated (at least until the addition of Mahdi).  He definitely helps in keeping the party on track, though he often overly analytical.  Even simple tasks like setting up alarm spells before going to sleep can take 30 minutes, as he maps out the perfect placement of the spells with reference to the terrain.  On the one hand, I often need to push the party past these things to keep it going smoothly (and remove the boredom for the other players), but on the other hand, sometimes, when I don’t have enough material for a session, I can usually count on Asia (and Mac playing Mahdi) to protract something out long enough to cover for me. 😉




Hiatus June 4, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Personal Comments.
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A hiatus in life, not in the game…

I haven’t written anything, for a variety of reasons.  First, I took a vacation from work and pretty much ignored everything other than playing computer games and getting some work done around the house.  Both were extremely successful and my quality of life has increased quite a bit.

Second, I’ve realized that I’m a little burned out on D&D at the moment.  I spent the last couple of weeks creating a new character for my husband’s campaign – an Ultimate Magus built off a wizard/beguiler.  I’m also in another campaign which just started up in which I’m playing a druid.  Not only have I never played a druid, this game is in a GM-designed world in which the druid, cleric, and wizard classes are extremely limited, so I’m spending my time trying to make a playable character out of her.

(As a side note, the campaign is very low-magic and non-epic, so the characters have low stats and at best, masterwork items.  The druids and clerics have to learn spells from a spellbook like a wizard does (not that the GM allows the PCs to be clerics), so either I only memorize healing spells, or we spend what little gold we do get only on healing potions.  It’s cumbersome almost to the point of deciding to leave the game.)

So, it seems that most of my time has been spent thinking about D&D, and not about D&D in this game.  Unfortunately, when that happens, writing here ends up being the thing that suffers.  Hopefully I’ll have more time next week to get back here in force.

Minutiae: Relaxing adventurers May 5, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Game Mastering.

This comes from a discussion (read: argument) that Robert and I have every so often, and I’d love any opinions you might have on the subject.

The party is in town, relaxing, for whatever reason.  Let’s say that they’re in town for an extended period of time: Maybe they’re waiting a couple of weeks for the wizard to scribe spells and scrolls, or there’s no work to be found, or they’re just taking some time off.  It seems to me, most of the time, if you let the characters relax, the players say they are hanging out in the tavern, drinking and partying.

So, you decide to spice it up a bit and throw an encounter into the mix.  Maybe there’s a tavern brawl, or some big baddies bust in the door with swords drawn and scream for bloody revenge on the guy at the next table.  My question is, what equipment are the PCs carrying?

My take on it is that, without any combat on planned and with the party in a “vacation” state of mind, the party is probably not fully armed.  Maybe they’ve got swords on their belts and bucklers strapped onto their arms; the wizard always has a staff (great for walking with) or a dagger; the rogue has a short sword or maybe a short bow with him.  They wouldn’t have great swords (6-7 feet long) or long bows (as tall as the wielder) strapped to their backs, simply because they are cumbersome and you can’t really sit down with them.  They wouldn’t have their packs or large shields on.  Even the paladin won’t be in full plate mail (maybe a chain shirt).

Robert says, no, they’re adventurers; they’ll be equipped for any eventuality, and thus be fully equipped at all times.  Or, at least, certainly he will.  He insists that Vryn, who considers every person a possible enemy, is always completely decked out: great sword and composite long bow strapped to his back, mace at his hip, haversack and bag of holding strapped on.  He never “relaxes.”  He also generalizes to his other characters, that they’d always have all their possessions with them. 

In my opinion, this is ludicrous.  Yes, Vryn is suspicious of everyone, but it’s extremely difficult to even navigate a crowded tavern with all that equipment, much less sit down.  He also says that Vryn tries to look as average and “forgettable” as possible, but sitting in a tavern armed to the gills with multiple weapons and jealously guarding all of his worldly possessions would make him stand out like a sore thumb (this is something I plan to have fun with the next time they’re in this situation, by the way).  I suspect that his whole point is that he wants to keep all of his stuff within a Quick Draw free action or a Heward’s Haversack move action.

The flip side of this is that if I do require my players to figure out what things they have with them when they’re relaxing, that’s a lot more nitpicky things they have to do.  In general, nitpicky things aren’t fun and slow the game down.  But on the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair that they have access to everything they own, if I decide that it’s ridiculous that they have all their stuff with them.

I’d love to know how other people handle (or would handle) this situation.


Balancing strategy April 30, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Game Mastering.

The second part of the Tomb of the Fallen has been posted in the campaign journal.  In this session, I noticed (yet again) that even after two years of campaigning, the party has still not learned how to really fight together.  There are some basic strategies that they completely miss, to their detriment.  Rather than fight like a group that has been traveling together for almost a year now, each individual still fights like he’s fighting alone.

The party has taken some steps to fight like a group.  For example, they asked if they could develop a set of code words, so that they could tell each other what to do in a fight without letting the opponent know what’s coming (as in, saying “Vryn! Vroomfondel!” means “Vryn, I’m going to throw a fireball on your spot, so move!”).  However, they rarely use it; they rarely ever suggest to each other what the other might do, or tell someone to move out of the way.

Robert is the best strategist of them all, and he watches carefully what everyone’s doing and tries to work it to best advantage.  However, Vryn is too self-interested to take the first step in working with the group (he is definitely of the opinion that he will survive without any of the others).  Mac is a decent strategist, but his character Mahdi is also self-interested and chooses to look out for himself first, everyone else second.

Asia, Nathan, and Kyle, however, don’t work together.  Asia is a very smart, methodical person, and he always reviews what he can do and tries to choose to best effect, but definitely has problems thinking creatively, strategy-wise.  Nathan and Kyle are not creative — while it is true that fighter-types rarely have much more to do than hit things, they are not creative with what they choose to hit.  I can almost always rely on them to hit whatever happens to be closest rather than what’s most dangerous, and to not take five-foot-steps unless it immediately puts them into a favorable position (thus, if Sparrow happens to be next to Vryn fighting the monster when the fight starts, he won’t edge around to try to flank, unless Vryn moves to a position in which Sparrow sees that he can five-foot-step and flank right now).

In this particular fight, Vryn went first and attacked the wraith right next to him.  Sparrow, rather than ganging up on that wraith to fell it quickly, attacked his own wraith.  Falco also chose to attack the wraith that Sparrow was on.  As it was, when Osiris’ turn undead took effect, the closest wraith was Vryn’s, which had been beaten down to 10% of its health.  If Sparrow and Falco had ganged up on Vryn’s wraith, it would have been dead by that point and Osiris’ turn undead would have hit Sparrow’s wraith instead.  This was important, because a couple of rounds later, it was Sparrow’s wraith that killed Falco.

I find that I have to balance my own strategy against the parties that I DM for.  The major problem is that strategy, especially turn-based strategy, is my strength: I enjoy strategic games and employing my character’s or troops’ abilities to their fullest extent.  I’m not saying that I’m the best strategist out there — I’m saying that of whatever skills I may possess, my best is strategy.  (Those are two completely different statements.)  Thus, when I get into combat and I’m using a number of different units, I immediately start to think, “How can I use them all to best advantage?”

There are a number of problems to this approach.  The very first one is that the units are rarely telepathic:  They don’t know what their comrades are going to do.  One might see another one engage the enemy and move to flank — that’s completely reasonable — but they can’t necessarily anticipate moves, such as, “He’s going to cast a fireball, so I’ll delay now and move in right afterwards.”

Groups can have fought together before and have set tactics, or have a good feeling for what their comrades can and will do, but you have to balance for it.  Units’ Intelligence scores are important here as well; stupid units may not anticipate his companions. 

The second problem is that the GM isn’t necessarily obligated to run his units like a well-trained army, and this could definitely detract from the fun for his players.  While D&D is a strategy game to a big extent, the strategy is within a larger context.  It’s always to the wolves’ advantage to choose to flank, but in context, wolves aren’t smart enough to do so.  Thus, while the party will want to minimize accidental flanking, their strategy should be based on the assumption that they won’t have to worry about it.  Perfect monster strategy detracts from the atmosphere and the game.

The other side of the coin, though, is that you don’t want the players to feel that you dumbed down the game for them, much like you don’t want them to find out that you fudge rolls or added some hp to the monster that had turned out to be too easy for them.  They want to feel that they beat the best that you threw at them, and obviously stupid moves on the GM’s part makes the combat disappointing.

In general, along with the adjustment of strategy that I do based on monster intelligence and background, I find I need to adjust for the strategy on my players’ parts.  What I try to do is balance between matching the level of strategy they use and showing them new things they can do, by having the monsters do them first.  Though, I have to admit, they still haven’t picked up on ganging up on one monster at a time, even though I tend to do that to them with the appropriate monsters, so maybe it’s an exercise in futility?

Region: Talnoor April 29, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Geography.
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Talnoor is located in the center of the continent, and most trade routes pass through it by physical necessity.  Thus, it is the melting pot of Chorenn, where most travelers will at least stop for a few nights.  The region is the most “generic fantasy” of all of them, and it’s where I expected the group to spend most of its time, and thus it has a bit more detail than the rest of the continent.  (Though, I might note, I haven’t actually created detailed maps of these areas, mostly due to laziness.  Nemeril will probably be the first city I actually design specifically, because of the events that will need to take place there.)

The three largest cities in Talnoor are Silverleaf (the capital, ruled by Lord Miken Salbold), Dryreach (Lord Steward Antius Graymoir), and Fin Quil (Lord Darren Quil Tam).  The region stretches the entire length of the southern shore of the Inland Sea, and it provides a small navy to police that body of water.

Silverleaf is the second-largest city on the continent, an open city with no walls and a deep, developed harbor to encourage all types of trade traffic.  It is a lively city, and certainly a magnet for all types of people.  Its people have a feeling of security, since most attacks on the region would have to work their way through either Dryreach or Fin Quil first.

Lord Miken is considerably proud of his prosperous city.  He is quick to claim credit for it, though he inherited much of it from his more competent father.  He is quite ambitious and is aware that the throne’s succession could be thrown into chaos with a mere accident to the Crown Prince.   He is also aware that his two greatest opponents are the other Talnoorian lords, Antius and Darren.

Dryreach, on the edge of the Topaz Desert, is much like its name — dry and dusty.  It obtains most of its food from farmers to the northeast and through trading with Silverleaf and Valuria, and exports stone and metals from the nearby mountains. 

Its lord, Antius, is actually a lord steward; the lord’s line ended abruptly centuries ago, and according to tradition, a new lord can only be proclaimed when a worthy successor places his or her hand on and is accepted by the magical artifact known as the Dryreach Topaz.  Until then, the city is kept by a line of lord stewards.

Antius, a very ambitious and cruel man, lives under the shadow of a complete stranger grabbing his throne out from under him.  He also feels that the other lords do not consider him their equals and resents them mightily for it.  He also has his eye on the throne of Chorenn and thirsts either for it for himself, or to be favored exclusively by the king.  He ensures that Dryreach has a large standing army, to protect himself as well as have many trained men for loan to the king, by buying mercenaries.  To fund this, he keeps the taxes high and the water supply tightly controlled.  His people resent him for this, but also appreciate that he keeps a tightly run and safe city.  Or at least that’s what he tells them he does.

Fin Quil is much like Silverleaf.  Though not nearly as large, it profits off the trade routes and its people are quite content.  Traditionally, Fin Quil has served as the training ground for the army that protects Talnoor, and Lord Darren is its commander.  The Quil Tam family has always taken this responsibility very seriously and has trained its heirs in war and strategy; as such, Darren is considered one of the greatest strategic minds of the land.  Darren’s commanders also control the navy that polices the Inland Sea, but since Fin Quil’s shoreline is too shallow for deep-hulled ships, the navy ports in Silverleaf.

Darren’s main concern, however, is the well-being of his city.  He is aware of Miken’s ambitions and disapproves, feeling that Miken does barely an adequate job in his own city and does not have the brains to manage a realm.  Though he is not one for diplomacy or politics, he has been opposing Miken as of late.  Miken’s response lately has been to begin training a Silverleaf army of his own.

In general, though, very little of these politics have affected the party, though they will in the future.

The map of the land April 28, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Geography.
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I’ve been meaning to post this for a while.  This is the map of Chorenn that I created in Campaign Full continent mapCartographer 2 and have been using for my campaign.  I plan to move this into a page in the right sidebar, so that it is easy reference.

There’s not much to comment about it.  I wanted to have varied terrain (no volcanoes, though; I’m not fond of the large-pools-of-molten-lava thing, since that really only happens very rarely – only in one place on this planet, for example) with at least some rhyme and reason to the layout of the land. 

I probably spent most time designing Valuria, since I wanted it to be very isolated, even from the sea.  It is surrounded by sea cliffs, though it really has no reason to, geologically.  I also imagine that the Great Barrier Peaks are formed much like the Himalayas were, from the subcontinent smashing into the main continent.

One thing that isn’t pictured here is a bit of dryland/desert in the south of Japrilis.  This is because it wasn’t there in when I created the map.  Mac wrote, in his background, that Mahdi was part of a small tribe of Japrilians that lived in a desert called the Gul.  Since there wasn’t a desert there but certainly could be, I decided there is one; Mahdi’s tribe (centuries before he was born) chose to live there since its climate was much more like what they lived in before they traveled to Chorenn.


Region: Thirmondas April 10, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Geography.
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I’ll start the my discussion of the different regions of Chorenn with Thirmondas, which, you might realize, is also Sparrow’s real last name.  The name of the region was normally changed by the monarch when the monarchy was passed to a new house, so that the region and the house had the same name.  However, the Thirmondas house has held the monarchy so long that the custom has been completely forgotten.  If Sparrow chooses to take his mother’s family’s name (which Nathan has hinted that he intends), the region will remain Thirmondas unless Sparrow decides to change it (which I doubt Nathan would think of).

(I realized later, after devising this history, that it is highly unlikely that a single house held onto the monarchy for that long — over 1,400 years, I believe — but, hey, stranger things have happened.  There have been periods of turmoil within the monarchy, but I reason that sometimes, the house had enough heirs to weather the succession war, and at other times, another house’s heir might have taken the throne but also taken the name, for various reasons.  I haven’t written out the entire history in that much detail.)

Thirmondas is the southeastern peninsula of the continent, and enjoys moderate weather at most times of the year.  Light snows are common in winter, but heavy snows and blizzards are rare.  The three major cities of the region are Nemeril (the capital of the land), King’s Peace, and Port Jonlen.  West of Nemeril is a chain of mountains, and to the east is a thick forest where the king and nobles enjoy hunting.

Nemeril is considered the pinnacle of society, though the other regions’ capitals, especially Silverleaf in Talnoor and Tarnas in Valuria, might be richer and/or more cultured.  In the imaginations of people of other regions, Nemeril contains high towers, great buildings, and great works of art and engineering, and the people are rich and noble; however, this creates a dichotomy with their awareness that King Harold and his retainers are cruel and greedy.

In reality, Nemeril, under Harold’s ancestors, was one of the great centers of culture and society, but that has largely fallen, as Harold, and his father and other recent monarchs before him, paid little interest to such things.  While the King’s Library at Nemeril does still exist, for example, its stores of knowledge have decayed, as its caretakers struggle under tight budgets and bicker among themselves about what deserves to be preserved, saving only that which interests them personally.

The social atmosphere in Nemeril is quite poisonous, as Harold enjoys intrigue and plays his lessers off each other.  He does not administer the city himself; the lordship of the city is largely a puppet position, currently occupied by Lady Ollidia Sellinel, who keeps her status by keeping the city’s coffers full.  King’s Peace is a traditional lordship, currently held by Lord Vinnen Caulgold, though the Caulgold family keeps close ties with the king and favors his form of government.

The commoners are largely used to the high taxes and the oppressive nobles.  They are careful not to voice any opposition, since the Obsidian Guard population is (as far as they know) much higher than anywhere else in the kingdom.  Most find that if they keep their nose to the grindstone and don’t complain, they are largely ignored by those who consider themselves their betters. 

Nemeril does have a large ghetto area, and, unlike most other cities on the continent, has an organized underworld – what you might call a thieves’ or assassins’ guild.  This, however, I’ve left largely undefined, since it seems to me that it’s as likely that the king, or the Obsidian Guard, knows about and utilizes it, as it is that it is competely independent.


Political geography – design April 4, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Geography, Politics.
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I know a description of my world’s political geography is going to take some time, probably as many as three posts to cover the regions I want.  I tried very hard to make my world diverse, and thus, it won’t be possible to talk about it all in one article (without allowing the article to span multiple pages).  I think, though, the actual process of designing Chorenn and its inhabitants is worth discussing.

You might have read World-Building 101 at the Game Master Foundation.  When I read it, I found that I created my world in a completely different order.   This probably reinforces the point that there is no “right” way of creating a world — just what’s right for you.  (I’d suggest, though, if you don’t know where to start, read everyone’s suggestions — they give great ideas.)  I actually started creating the map and then populated it, but there were many ideas I had to keep in mind while building the map, too.  As I have found in the entire campaign, it’s not as much a process of building a world as an evolution from one state to another.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted a contained continent, from which the group would not be travelling.  The story required that the focus be on Chorenn and its crown prince, and I didn’t want player characters from other nations coming in and wreaking havoc.  This had two effects.  First, I created the notion that the seas around Chorenn are notoriously rough and impassable, though calm enough in some places near the shores (to allow for seaborne trade between regions).  However, this didn’t sit well with me.  One of my personal limitations is that things must make sense — I’m science-trained and always look for consistency in systems.  (Which is one of the reasons that the magic system in Harry Potter always bugged me — too many inconsistencies over the run of the seven books.)  I already knew that in distant past times, Chorenn was settled by seafarers from another continent, and thus the whole “impassable seas” thing made no sense.  Thus, the second effect:  I decided that in general, Chorennii are not particularly inventive or prone to exploration.  They don’t venture beyond their shores because they think the seas are impassable and don’t care to try to overcome the barrier.

This definitely changed the atmosphere of the nation.  Now, I felt that the people were much more like Dark Ages Europeans.  They lived, loved, worked, and died without much thought about how things could be progressed.  Politically, they were more concerned with internal struggles and struggles with other regions than with what else could be out there.

Environment-wise, I wanted to stay somewhat in line with real-world climate and geography (e.g. deserts appear around certain latitudes, marshes aren’t going to appear in places that get lots of snow, etc.) so that the players wouldn’t have to suspend their disbelief too much, but the terrain needed to be varied enough to make the world interesting.  I found that the map I was drawing was about two-thirds the size of the U.S., so I applied its (very) general climate pattern, though I moved some regions around.

Then it came time to think about the regions and cities themselves.  I always default to the classic fantasy RPG setting for cities and towns, so I had to think about how to make them different from each other.  I also wanted to create cities and regions that my players actually had to think about — I didn’t want them to wander into a village and assume it was just a place to get adventure hooks from. 

Lastly, and this was very important to me, I wanted to give the players a healthy dose of reality.  NPCs have their own lives.  People have wants and fears, as well as prejudices and skeletons.  Lords aren’t just sources of rewards for dragon-slaying.  Justice isn’t like we expect today; a person hauled away under suspicion of stealing a loaf of bread will not necessarily receive a trial, and if he does, the trial may not be fair at all.  While I certainly didn’t write this kind of thing down while designing my regions, it still adds flavor if you keep it in mind.

Thus, I thought about what realities and personalities I wanted to portray.  I had a few already in mind:

  • One culture that was markedly different than the rest.  I wanted especially to use an Arabic culture, with a supreme deity to be worshipped, as a contrast to the polytheistic rest of the continent.
  • Two cultures locked in an ethnic struggle.  (This was mentioned in Falco’s introduction.)
  • At least one region that wasn’t under the control of the Chorennii monarchy.
  • At least one region that was separated physically from the rest of Chorenn by some geographical barrier.
  • At least one city that was famed for a specific reputation, so that the player characters could eventually venture there and find that reputation, even a good one, is not necessarily truth.

I also tend to play my NPCs waaaaaaaay too nice, so I wanted to create cities that had evil, grime, and intrigue, to force me to play their inhabitants, or at least their lords, as mean.

With all this in mind, I sketched a rough map on a throwaway layer in Campaign Cartographer and then slowly built the real map on top of it.  I carved the map up into the regions I wanted, then added the terrain features needed to shape the political geography — a range of mountains here, a sea there to restrict overland travel, etc.  I also kept in mind the seacoasts, putting in long (probably too long for realism) sea cliffs where I didn’t want an area to be easily accessed by sea.

Then, I added the cities and the towns, without marking in any little villages (since those are good to make up on the fly).  I also wasn’t far enough along to mark dungeons, but I did make sure I knew where the elves, dwarves, and other races lived. 

Thus, I had a map, and a good idea of the flavor of each region.  It was then time to design the regions.

Journal organization, part 2 April 1, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Miscellaneous.

You might notice a new look to the journal.  Once I started adding stuff to the sidebar, I started to dislike the old theme because of the way it displayed the sidebar headers.  So, I’ve chosen a new look, and we’ll see how this goes.  I’m not sure I’m fond of the vertically-squeezed webpage layout that’s so popular nowadays, and I don’t know about this tiny font (isn’t the point of a public web journal is to make it easy for people to read what you write?), but I’ll see if they grow on me.

I’ve added my first session journal entry, which you can see on the right, just under “About this journal.”  The “Campaign Journal” page will have links to all of these session entries, organized into either the “past” (old sessions) or “present” (current sessions).  I’ll also have inter-session entries, meaning discussions of offline “sessions” held with usually only one player to take care of something personal (sometimes these things are held entirely in email).  I noticed the need for this while writing the current session entry — many of the things mentioned in it stem from some inquiries that Sparrow made on his own time.

The “Campaign Journal” page will always have the links to the session entries, but I plan to remove the session entries from the sidebar as they get old and new ones get added.  You can always refer to the sidebar to see what’s new (or to see just how much of a slacker I’ve been).

At this point, everything except the session entries will be kept in the main blog, just like I’ve been doing before.  Perhaps, as I write more and complete more things, I’ll organize them in the sidebar a bit better (the list of player characters comes to mind).  Any other suggestions, comments, and criticisms about the organization and presentation of this journal are welcome!

Race choice March 31, 2008

Posted by Shivver in Other.

Hi there!  Yes, I haven’t written in a while.  I’ve been working a bit on a couple of articles (three, to be exact), and then I got hit by a cold last week, so none of it got done.  I thought, though, I might elicit some opinions about something I’ve been thinking about for a while, that has nothing to do with my campaign. 

I am creating a new character for my husband’s campaign, which is a simple, mostly combat-oriented, very little role-playing dungeon crawl and monster bash.  I happen to be creating a wizard, and I’ve decided to make an Ultimate Magus (from Complete Mage), with wizard and beguiler as the base classes.

One thing I’ve found, when creating characters, that if there is no roleplay/backstory restriction on my race, I tend to choose human, mostly for that extra feat (and secondarily the extra skill points).  So far, in the last few years, I’ve created a cleric, a rogue/cleric/pious templar (my favorite character, though she didn’t live long), and now this mage, and they’re all human.  I had an elven rogue/archer, but the race was chosen for roleplay purposes, and a half-elven barbarian, but if I had to make her again, I’d make her human.  (Actually, I have no idea why I made her half-elven.  I  had to twist her backstory around very awkwardly to make it fit; human was what she should have been.)

I know that other races have their benefits, but so many of them can be obtained through other means.  It’s tough to get more skill points or feats, and with new feats being introduced with every book, humans just seem so much better.

Maybe if I ever created a really good heavy fighter with all the bonus fighter feats (or a Warblade, with all the nifty maneuvers and stances), I might consider some other race.  I’d love to hear what people think about other races and why they choose them — not counting roleplay reasons, of course.