Posts Tagged ‘Contact’

World Building – Creating a Rich and Vibrant World

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Ever wondered what comes next after you’ve draw what your home brew world looks like on a piece of paper? Well let’s discover shall we…RPGBlogCarnivalLogo

As described by Jade at Evil Machinations in this month’s RPG Blog Carnival overview, world building is a huge topic and covers a great range of areas. Originally I had started to write a couple of blogs on the building blocks of worlds such as approaches to designing topography and nations. Although crucial in the greater scheme of things it can be a dry read. So I have changed my posts to look at some of the more interesting areas of world building that often go unnoticed but in my opinion are essential to creating a successful world that players are begging to play in.

So steering away from Macroscopic/Microscopic/Situation-based/Literary & Character-based approaches to building up your world’s landscape I’d like to set aside my next few posts exploring building in details such as history, mythology, and creating a an atmosphere to capture the imagination of your players. To me this is where your world will come alive.

History – ‘before time was time’

Like building the general landscape you can use both Macroscopic and Microscopic approaches to developing a history and if you used one of these techniques to build the landscape you don’t have to be stuck using the same technique when developing its history. As an example to this I used a combination of microscopic and situation-based approaches to building my world but when it came to looking at the history I used a Macroscopic approach as this allowed me to develop a good flow to the world’s history, tracking migration of races across the continents and the fluctuations of nation states. Although this is the approach that I took it by no means has to be the approach that you need to take as you need to find what works best for you.

Now in truth you can actually apply both Microscopic and Macroscopic approaches to building history into your world so from a ‘big picture’ perspective does your world have ages, were there dark periods, were one or two races dominant over others and has this changed as time progressed? Looking at the history of our own world there were defined ages associated with technological discoveries, cultural & religious ideologies and national developments. Periods such as the bronze, iron and dark ages come prominently to mind.

So if you’ve set out the general landscape of your world start to explore its history and what has shaped it into how it will look for the players today, and I’ve used the word explore here as that is exactly what you want the players to be doing. You want the players to explore your world, its history and its secrets. So set yourself into that mindset and develop a history that supports the current state of play.

If you are using a Microscopic, Character or Situation-based method you’ll want to look at the surrounding influences of the area in which the players are having the adventure or campaign set. This is a great way to be able to spend time focusing on the real details in a world and can often prove to be an efficient way to spend your development time for unless the players are going to find the ancient warhammer of King Sulchen who ruled an empire two thousand years ago do you really need an understanding of that history for your sessions. Probably not, so focusing on methods such as looking at the current situation and area, a detailed analysis of the local power factions, influences and their history is a great way to not only generate interest for the players but also to dig up some fantastic adventure hooks.

Look at cultural nuances, why does the predominantly human town play the dwarven game of ‘Stick the Goblin’ and brew good ales? Is it because when the town was settled there was a dwarven keep close by who traded regularly with the town. The keep might now be a ruin as the dwarves disappeared for an unknown reason but their influence remains. This example not only provides the town with some distinctive characters, some of which can be adopted into PC backgrounds, but it also creates some adventure hooks around a ruined keep and unknown local lore.

This method also allows you greater time to focus on NPC’s. I’m not sure about you guys but one of the greatest aspects to playing for me is the interaction with NPC’s. Again as a world builder you need to spend your time to maximise what you produce, as you can spend it doing a huge amount of work that never gets seen in your sessions and miss out on creating what will make a difference for your player’s experience.

With that said below is a handy tip to managing your precious world building time…

Time Management Tip #1

No matter how organized we are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn’t change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have.

So with that in mind have a quick think of what really needs to be developed to maximise the playing experience. World history is crucial to provide to players as it shows depth to the world, so understand how you work best and what is actually going to make a difference to the playing experience, then start creating.

Generic Fantasy Worlds – a question

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Just a quick post today but it’s on a topic that is of great relevance to me. As many regular readers would know my initial product line revolves around the creation and distribution of my game world and in doing so I’ve decided to not associate it with any particular game system.  I’ve done this for a couple of good reasons but primarily to give you guys the flexibility to use the work that I have done in any campaign.

So my topic today is on the terminology of the game world/system association. I’ve seen a lot of people using the term ‘generic’ when referring to a world or adventure and from what I understand this is pretty much industry wide. As a producer of a ‘generic’ game world I find that this term tends to have a negative connotation associated with it, where it is seen as low grade or poor in terms of quality and I’m not sure that this is a true reflection or accurate in terms of assessment.  I was wondering if anyone knew whether there were other industry recognised terms that do not hold a negative feel to them.

The one which I have been using is ‘Open System Game World’, obviously this can also be translated into an adventure eg ‘Open System Adventure’, as I believe that this accurately describes what a consumer is getting ie. an adventure of game setting that can be used in any game system, without holding any negative feel or aspects.

I’d be keen to know if there are any alternative terms or your thoughts on the term that I have been using.

Development Notes – Upcoming Projects #1

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

With the completion of The Bloodsoaked Lands I thought that it might be a good time to let you all know what I’ve been working on at the moment and what’s in the pipeline for development.

As mentioned in a couple of other posts my main project is book two of my series which details the Gracian culture and also the Grand Duchy of Koras.  Again here the book will be jam packed with rich detail on the culture, history and society of these people in conjunction with adventure hooks and player opportunities.

But, not to sound too much like a dodgy TV infomercial salesman, … ‘That’s not all’, far from it in fact. I also have a gazette for Doth-Eria that I’m putting together. After some feedback following release of The Bloodsoaked Lands people wanted to know a little more about the other provinces to help build a better idea of the Empires structure, size and landscape, so I’ve been busy designing this gazette.  Due to conflicting timelines it will still be a little bit off however it is coming so if I could ask for a little patience you will be rewarded.

Now this next piece has got me really excited, it’s a collaborative project of designing RPG software to enable people to play over the internet, not a new concept however our take on it will be.  This is only just getting off the ground however it shows great promise. As it is still quite a way off I’ll keep you all up to date with it as we may need people to do some concept and beta testing for it. In the meantime I would be very appreciative if you had aspects or features to an RPG software package that you would like to see or use then either leave me a comment below or send me an email via the contact details on the right hand sidebar.

Gary’s 1 Year Anniversary – a time to remember

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

It’s been one year since Gary Gygax has passed away and in memory of this event I was privileged to be able to contribute to a remembrance blog written by the guys at Stargazers World.  If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons or have heard of him, as he was one of fantasy’s great contributors, then check out this blog ‘Remembering a Legend’ it holds some great memories of the man, thoughts of how he has impacted our lives and some great history about him.

Elrean Crothus

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

History

Born shortly after the fourth age was recognised Elrean Crothus was born into a life far from normal.  Elrean is the second child of the Duke and Duchess Tysis & Sylicia Crothus of the city of Thor-Relen.   Brought up on the family estates located just outside the city itself she spent much of her spare time running through the fields, playing with the servants and exploring the grounds.

Her childhood was a fairly isolated experience with her older brother often in tuition, her mother busy organising the affairs of the house and attending the court, while her father was nearly always out of the city on official business.  Although not necessarily the most desirable upbringing it allowed her to spend time watching and mimicking the soldiers and guards of the families private army, thus nurturing her interest in warfare and battle.

For many years she would sit upon the window sills and walls of the manor watching the 1st Battalion, her family’s private armed forces, go through their drills and training exercises with interest and excitement.

Although her father was rarely involved with her childhood her continuous voyeurism of his troops had not gone unnoticed.  For her fifteenth birthday he presented Elrean, to her mother’s horror, with her first blade and informed her that his personal retainer, general of the 1st Battalion and best friend Kaldoran will train her in how to use it and how to fight.

Over the next five years Elrean learnt everything that Kaldoran knew about swordsmanship, warfare and battle, relishing the physical nature of the career she had now chosen she threw herself into it.  Refusing to sleep in the manor with the rest of her family she took what belongings she thought she would need and moved into the barracks with the rest of the men.

Upon reaching twenty she had learnt everything that she could from those in the north and sought to travel to the Capital of Julan Quo in order to train with the imperial battle master.  Again her father was to bestow his daughter two gifts before she left, the first was a new sword crafted by the Elven smiths of The Lost Wood and enchanted by him, thus he bestowed a weapon of fine make and extreme power to his only daughter.  Secondly he also gave her a talisman and instructed her that in the time of need use it to contact him and he will come to her aid.

Elrean spent a further two years training under the battle masters of Julan Quo before she was approached by a man named Atrimus Detear.  Atrimus was a general from the Guild of Swords, a large mercenary guild of men for hire.  Atrimus offered Elrean a membership to the guild and an initial officer rank of Lieutenant, which would allow her to take command of small forces in their operations.
Taking the offer Elrean saw this as an opportunity to move away from her family’s name and influence and to try and forge a reputation based on her own actions and it is here that she forges her own future…

Description

Although Elrean has now entered her early thirties her facial features still hold its youthful appearance however her Auburn eyes and steely nature tells a tale of experience and age.  Due to the practicality of her profession Elrean keeps her ashen hair short and it is often unkempt from using a helmet during training and battle.

Elrean is of tall and moderate build with defined muscles and quite chiselled facial features which are lingering traits from her heritage.  These have allowed her to be nimble on her feet and powerful with her strikes, a potent combination.

Although initially sheltered from any real issues by her troops when she was living in the family barracks she has spent many of her years amongst the rough and tough attitudes of mercenaries as such she is a little guarded with her feelings, has developed an authoritative tone to her words and a contempt for arrogance.

Works Involving This Character

Free Ebook pdf & prc available Chronicles of a Mercenary Captain

The Flaming Mantle Tavern

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

The smell of scented pipe weed can subtly be detected in the air, although the smoke hangs thickly amongst the ceiling rafters from the many pipes that have been lit throughout the night there is little visible evidence of it below the exposed beams of the tavern room’s ceiling.

The roaring fire located in the middle of the room boisterously jumps from the specially made fire pit that restrains it.  Its flames stretching into the air as they consume the precious oxygen that feeds it.  On the floor surrounding the pit are magical runes, carved into the stone floor and glowing brightly, these are what draws and contains the flames straight from the fires of the elemental plane.

The heat from this central source fills the room and would leave it slightly stuffy if it was not for the open windows that allow the mild breeze in from outside.

The open spaces of the taproom has been filled with tables and chairs for the patrons and as you look around, about half of them are full with a variety of groups.  Most are quietly talking amongst themselves over tankards of ale while others are more raucous as the gradual intoxication of the liquor that has been imbibed is taking affect.

To your left is small stage raised a foot and a half above the floor.  Atop it sits a bard on a three legged stool playing a lute; his audacious vest and wide brimmed hat sets an interesting scene as he regales a tall tale of heroics, courage and danger.  Slightly behind and to the left side of him, hovering in midair, is a small harp.  The harp gleams in the light that comes from the magical globes located throughout the room as its strings are plucked and provide accompanying music to the voice of the bard.

On your right is the bar, a sturdy wooden construction, the symbol of a flame is branded into its front and its polished surface makes it look brand new, although your knowledge of this establishment would indicate that it is far from so.

On the wall behind the bar is what gives this tavern its name.  The Flaming Mantle.  A small mantle, only two foot long and made from an unknown stone, has been fitted to the buildings stone wall behind the bar; its black colour is patterned with a green marbling effect and from its smoothly cut surface rises small blue flames.  It is said that these flames, like those in the central fire pit are drawn from the elemental planes.

Sitting atop the mantle is a single bottle of spirits.  The bottle is made from a thin glowing material and keeps within it the choice of drink from a slain Demon General.  The spirits are kept heated and in an evaporated state so that it concentrates the liquid within.  When the bottle is taken from the flames the evaporation condenses to produce the desired liquid.  A strongly flavoured and alcoholic spirit that would warm the coldest soul.

The drink was taken by the barkeep and renown adventurer Hulderic, or Hul to his friends, in his earlier days of adventuring during a campaign into the hells.  Taken as a trophy of their adventures, Hulderic has placed an option for patrons to try the exotic drink however to do so they must first put forward what they believe trying the drink will be worth; a figure that he has not openly released.  So far the current bid put forth by Lord Heleman was 1,200 gold pieces.  A price rejected by Hulderic as too low.

This is the Flaming Mantle Tavern and a hub for adventurers to find out the latest rumours, jobs and opportunities.  As such subscribers to this site will receive job opportunities, adventure hooks and rumours from the tavern that they can freely use in their adventures and campaigns periodically delivered in your newsletter.

Gibsview Abbey

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Half a day’s travel to the north of the citadel of Langhorn is Gibsview Abbey.  Located on an overhang looking out upon a valley called Gibs Vale, this is a small quaint Abbey of worshipers of Belemai, the god of knowledge and wisdom, who spend the majority of their time in reflection upon the words and teachings of Belemai .

When not in quiet contemplation and discussion they spend their time growing barley and making Ales in their brewery.  These Ales are highly sought after and are usually high alcohol, very flavoursome rich brews that utilise an open ferment system to obtain unique flavours.  Their most commonly requested beer is the Serpents Wing Ale, but produce a great range of ales from the small brewery that they have built.  Below are some of their creations…

Serpents Wing Ale: This top fermented brew is bottle conditioned and has a smooth frothy head, which is derived from the light carbonation of the beer and when poured into a glass it literally sparkles as if golden flecks floated throughout the liquid.  The brew is full of flavour and has a moderate alcohol content combined with a crisp bitter finish.

Tortlan’s Abyss: Tortlan was a former member of the Abbey whose learned study led him to believe that there were ancient texts of Belemai buried deep within a tunnel system in the Tarisan Ranges and set off to rediscover them so that the Abbey could benefit from the lost knowledge.  At the best of times Tortlan’s sanity was questionable by the members of the Abbey; however they humoured his theory and allowed him to pursue his agenda seeing little harm in it.  Unfortunately poor Tortlan has never been seen or heard of since he left the Abbey gates and is presumed to have perished upon his sojourn.

In his honour the Abbey brewed this beer which is a heavily roasted brew as black as the abyss that Tortlan set off to find.  In an attempt to mimic the juxtaposed nature of the man this brew is slightly sweet with a strong chocolate flavour and only a moderate level of alcohol.

Gibsview Cassis Ale: Made from the blackberries that are grown in the gardens of the Abbey, the Cassis Ale is one of the most expensive ales produced from the Abbey as it is aged four years prior to being released for consumption.  This ageing process helps to integrate the flavours so that the drinker is provided with a complex taste sensation upon their palate.

This fruit driven beer has a deep purple colouring and holds great balance between the blackcurrants flavours from the fruit, the sweetness of the alcohol and the bitterness of the hops.  To round out the drink its high alcohol content means that it will test even the heartiest of Dwarves.

The Doth-Erian Empire Brief Overview

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

The Doth-Erian Empire has been forged over the past four hundred and thirty years.  From humble beginnings as a single and only moderately sized nation to an empire that now encompasses fifteen provinces and stretches from the Great Synathian Ocean in the west to the Alasean Sea in the east.  Many of these province’s boarders are the original boarders of the nations that were conquered however several have been constructed by the empire to its own benefits.

In the past four hundred and thirty years the empire has seen very little time of peace, historians claim only as much as fifty years without bloodshed.  The Doth-Erian’s came to power due to their development of superior cavalry and the use of artillery on the battlefield.  Conquering two out of three of its neighbours in separate wars over a twenty-five year period they set a precedence for the years to come and with this in mind the empire continued to expand to its current size.

As is the case with all great empires, unity is seen as a key to ensuring the future of the empire thus the Doth-Erian’s routinely dominate the culture and society of the lands they conquer thus there are many dialects throughout the empire but many of these such as the Apathian or Gracian languages, practices and beliefs are banned from use in preference for the Doth-Erian culture.  This has however had benefits for those wishing to trade with and within the empire whether they be foreign or local merchants alike.

The Doth-Erians are routinely portrayed and depicted by other cultures and neighbouring countries as arrogant and in the minds of the Empires nobility why should this matter, they have won the right to be so through victory at arms.  To this date there has been nothing that has successfully challenged the Empire’s might and few on the continent of Synathia would rival its power.  Thus their demeanour is seen as justified and true amongst its aristocracy.

The Barrowlands

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

‘Bring into your mind a picture of grand landscapes, forested mountain ranges littering the countryside with streams and rivers running freely down the slopes, gradually carving valleys out of the rock.  Before the mountain ranges stretches rolling grass covered plains as far as the naked eye can see. Now soak that lush foliage and  rich soil with the blood of hundreds of thousands of men women and children so that when you walk those lands it is not moisture from the recent rains that wells in your footprint but the blood of those who have died in defence of it.  These are the southern lands of our great empire, riddled with the memories and pains of the dead.’

Carma Othius

Imperial Court Bard to Emperor Arias 3rd


The Barrowlands is a land of some diversity as its northern boundary run along the base of the Denaris Ranges holding lush, fertile plains suited to grazing sheep and dairy cattle, but as you travel further south the terrain changes to forested undulating hills, valleys and eventually mountains as they stretch further south into the lands of Gracia and the Grand Duchy of Koras.

In this southern area wide open valleys are home to small self sustaining villages nestled next to lakes and rivers.  The deeper you travel into the land the more untouched it seems to be with the landscape covered with forests, abundant wildlife, foliage that clings to the rocks of the cliff faces as they try to reach the ridges peaks, and water that cascades down the valley walls in a myriad of thin waterfalls.

Yet do not let this serine picture fool you as the lands are both wild and dangerous, particularly if you are from Doth-Eria.  The primary threat is from one of the Gracian tribes as they consider the lands still to be theirs and anyone not of their people to be trespassers.  The most common encounter with these people is from tribal scouts who have come to investigate an incursion, hunters, night time raiders or warbands.  The further south and closer to the border between The Barrowlands and Gracia one travels the higher the risk, within the midlands and north of the province the risk is not so much of open battle or capture rather it is of insult and distrust by the villages and townsfolk who descend from the Gracian tribes.

The west and north-western parts of the province broaden into a more open landscape until you reach the coastline where rugged cliffs and lashing salty waves whip against the rocks.  The western area is the most civilized with the largest settlement, the Citadel of Langhorn, solidly standing as a beacon and testament to the power of the Doth-Erian Empire.

This is a harsh land, and one that is torn between two distinct cultures.  The original lands were held by a collective of tribes who loosely aligned to form a nation they called Gracia.  This is a vibrant warrior culture who is one with the lands around them, worshiping the spirits of the forest such as the wolf and the bear above all.  The current rulers of this province are the Doth-Erian Empire.  A highly technologically and magically advanced civilization that have continuously expanded their borders over the last four hundred and thirty years.  War between these two factions has lasted for over a century and has seen the gradual retreat of the Gracian’s.  Although the Empire has never been able to completely defeat these people they have pushed them deep into the southern mountain range Known as the Tarisan and conquered much of what they once owned.

Peace has now lasted for twenty years after a ceasefire was brokered by the Iribane tribe, however those descendents that were left in the occupied territory have known nothing but repression and subjugation, with the Doth-Erian’s enforcing laws which outlaw their language, religion, beliefs, dress, names, historical teachings and folk law.  Although the Gracian’s should not have expected any special treatment as this is standard policy for Doth-Eria as a means to take control of the captured lands and bring it completely under its control.

Justiciars of the Sovereign Hand

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Justice through Varhn’s law, guidance driven by his word and strength through belief.

These are the foundations of our grand Order.  This is what makes us strong.

Overview

This is an order of Knights who are comprised mainly of war clerics and warriors who adhere strictly to the codes and religion of Varhn, the god of justice.  As such these Knights consider themselves holy warriors in the service of their god.

This order solely operates in the Doth-Erian southern provinces of The Barrowlands, Morash and Berrendale and have their headquarters based in the Citadel of Langhorn.

The order has only been operating for 35 years and as such is quite a young order when compared to many of the others throughout the empire, thus they are still establishing themselves as a power within the area.  They are however fortunate as their founder and current Knight Captain Lucus Gilote is cousin to Duke Louis Da-Vi, Knight Captain and Southern Warden of the Imperial Court.  This has provided them with station and authority within the area albeit limited beyond the borders of the Southern provinces at this stage.

The age of the order has also led to its small size, and as such there are great demands placed upon its members as they are often called upon to visit more of the remote towns and villages to help administer justice and the rule of law, perform investigations or to lead a force to quell local dissidents.

The order was established due to a need for impartial justice within the burgeoning and impoverished region of The Barrowlands.  Lacking such a system of justice the Cannon of Tormay took it upon himself to create the order.  Drawing in some nobles from the Icean court whose families were benefactors of his minster in Tormay he took them under his belt and borrowing funds from the church of Varhn he travelled south to aid his cousin and built the orders headquarters within the walls of the rapidly growing southern citadel.

Although the aristocracy sees the methods of administering justice to the region as a positive and crucial step in bringing civilisation to these lands it is generally held by the populace that their justice is quite strict and heavy-handed in their sentencing with many judgements incurring the maximum penalty applicable for the crime.  Having said that not all crimes are dealt with by the order as the Justiciars are only involved in a crime if it is of significance, such as murder, rape, or rioting while lesser more common crimes remain the jurisdiction of the local military officers.

The second role of the order is to spread the word of Varhn throughout the province and convert those of the heathen Gracian gods to the ways of Varhn.  This is a task relished by the order as many of them border on fanatical worship and belief for their god.

The third role of the order is military service and service to the emperor.  Consistently this order is called upon to join in military action and without question the order marshals its members and marches with the army.  These are proud knights who stand firm upon the battlefield, clad in armour and riding huge war steeds they display the red kite shield and scales of justice, which is the symbol of their order upon their surcoats, tabards and barding.  A full unit of these knights makes an impressive display amongst the regular soldiers of the imperial army who, apart from the noble and elite units, tend to wear a mix-match array of colours, armours and weaponry.

This headstrong and militant nature of the order has helped to embed their role within the region and their mere presence in an area or town will often be enough to bring either calm or escalate the local issues to a resolution.

Becoming a Justiciar is a path that only the truly worthy achieve for one must be guided by Varhn’s hand through the hardships and trials as a squire to the order and then be open to judgement by its ruling members before given the rank of Knight.  This order draws its members from both the nobility and commoners who show particular talent and aspirations to join.  Unlike other orders throughout the empire that will only draw from the noble classes this order has been forced to accept commoners, if they are found worthy by trial and test, as the pool of nobility within the region is limited.  The Duke, Louis Da-Vi, is also supportive of this policy as each new knighthood creates a new member of the nobility for him to grant lands to and then taxes from.

Symbol

The balanced scales of justice within a red kite shield

Player Opportunities

This order provides a great source of adventure; although its members are comparatively few it also means that its members are more likely to be called upon to perform duty in the service to the order, the empire and the emperor.

Common duties are patrols with local military, the investigation of major criminal activity such as murder, drug trafficking and burglary, common crimes such as pick pocketing are usually beneath the judgement of the order, reserving themselves and Varhn’s judgement to the more serious crimes.

They are also often sent to rural towns and act as mayors and judges for small regions.  In this manner they tend to hold a great deal of power.  As a squire to the order you may be posted to help a higher ranked knight to administer a town or perform an investigation, alternatively as a fully fledged knight with rank and title within the order you may be sent to act as a lord for the region.